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Pomeroy parade and paramilitary funerals top agenda at British-Irish meeting

An Orange parade passes through Pomeroy in Co Tyrone on July 12 1991. Picture by Pacemaker
Dr Éamon Phoenix

AN Orange march in Co Tyrone, a paramilitary funeral in Co Monaghan and the loss of RUC intelligence files preoccupied a meeting of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in Dublin in July 1991.

Those attending included the Secretary of State Peter Brooke and the NIO minister Lord Belstead, Irish foreign affairs minister Gerry Collins and justice minister Ray Burke, and the RUC Chief Constable and Garda Commissioner.

On the recent marching season, the Irish side questioned the decision to allow an Orange parade through "the almost wholly nationalist town of Pomeroy" on July 12.

In particular, they could not understand why the RUC appealed a decision of the High Court which had banned the parade.

Chief Constable Sir John Hermon said he had sought the appeal because the RUC’s position on the march had not been fully explained to the court.

The principle espoused by Irish ministers – "that parades should not be permitted to pass through areas where they were not welcome" – was entirely irrelevant.

Ministers were told that no-one believed the action taken in Pomeroy would cause disruption, given the alternatives.

The Chief Constable said the Twelfth parade had been held in the village every seven years and in the past five years, 24 loyalist parades and 13 nationalist parades had passed off peacefully there.

The banning of or re-routing of the Twelfth parade would have resulted in "a very high degree of public disorder".

For their part, the British expressed concern at a paramilitary display and the firing of shots at the funeral in Co Monaghan of IRA man Lawrence McNally, who was shot dead by the SAS in Coagh, Co Tyrone the previous month.

Responding, the Irish side said the views of the local gardaí had to be taken into account in deciding how to deal with the situation.

They also pointed to the successful interception of a number of men who were believed to be preparing to fire shots over the coffin.

Irish ministers felt that public disorder would have developed had gardaí intervened, thus playing into the IRA’s hands.

Finally, the issue of collusion between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries surfaced.

The Chief Constable explained the background to the dumping of IRA documents at a rubbish dump in Dungiven, Co Derry which he described as "an unfortunate mistake".

On the loss of photo montages of IRA suspects in south Armagh, British ministers said that during a patrol on July 11/12 images of all the leading 'players' in the area had been "accidentally dropped in difficult country".

The montages were unlikely to fall into loyalist hands but the RUC were assessing the threat to individuals, the meeting was told.

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