State Papers

Officials' concerns over anti-paramilitary group's Workers' Party links

The Northern Ireland Office details are revealed in newly declassified files released by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
Éamon Phoenix

BRITISH government officials raised concerns in the 1990s about public funding given to an anti-paramilitary pressure group with links to a political party associated with the Official IRA.

Families Against Intimidation and Terror (Fait) received £30,000 after approaching the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) for funding.

But newly declassified files show officials had concerns about the organisation because of apparent connections with the Workers' Party, which had Official IRA links.

Fait was founded in the Downpatrick area by Nancy Gracey, whose son was shot by the Provisional IRA in a punishment shooting and who had publicly challenged the paramilitary group.

In 1991, people involved in Fait met with Stormont officials, and said its work was initially voluntary but the scale of support services to victims had grown to require government funding.

A Stormont official noted they had a "great deal of respect for Fait" and supported the idea of government funding, but months later some concerns surfaced.

READ MORE:

Fait's profile was raised in September 1991 when men ordered to leave Ireland by the Provisional IRA sought sanctuary in Newry Catholic Cathedral, where they remained for almost two weeks.

The Cardinal Primate, Cahal Daly, visited one of the families of the men seeking sanctuary.

An NIO official said he "made a mistake in the eyes of his episcopal colleagues" in visiting the family and it "was widely interpreted as showing solidarity with the sanctuary seekers".

The NIO official continued: "Cardinal Daly told me in confidence that this incident was hyped up ... by the group of advisers, Fait.

It was noted that the men in Newry Cathedral would have been prepared to leave and the Church could have guaranteed them safety were it not for the advice being offered by Fait.

The Cardinal said "that [Faut] was close to another political organisation which rivalled Sinn Féin. He was clearly referring to the Workers' Party".

The official added: "The Political Advisory Bureau [of the NIO] is aware that at least some of the individuals involved with Fait share at least common links with the Workers Party."

He revealed the Church authorities, while they did not order the two men to leave the church, had ordered their Fait advisers to leave.

"It was a murky incident. The government was not involved," he added.

However, another official wrote a note saying he felt there was "a real danger of Fait being ostracised over this incident and labelled as a front for the Workers' Party".

"They may not be lily white but neither are they to be classified along with PIRA," he added.

In September 1993, a memo said there was "little doubt that some prominent Fait members have Workers' Party links. The Workers' Party connection with the Official IRA has been an open secret".

However, later that month a meeting was held between Fait and an NIO minister.

The group told the minister that they had succeeded in crossing the community divide and their casework included both Provisional IRA and loyalist paramilitary groups.

According to the minutes, the minister was "impressed by the group's dedication".

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access

Categories

State Papers

Today's horoscope

Horoscope


See a different horoscope: