Northern Ireland news

State papers: Tánaiste critical of British response to IRA ceasefire

Sir Patrick Mayhew said the response to the ceasefires was governed by the advice of the chief constable
Éamon Phoenix

THE Fine Gael-Labour coalition pressed the British for a more generous security response to the IRA and loyalist ceasefires in 1995, according to previously confidential files released today.

The issue was discussed at an Anglo-Irish Conference in Dublin on April 28 1995, attended by the secretary of state Patrick Mayhew, NIO security minister Sir John Wheeler, RUC Chief Constable Sir Hugh Annesley and Tánaiste Dick Spring, minister for justice Nora Owen and minister for health Michael Noonan.

The discussion centred on the cessation of violence and the Tanaiste stressed the Irish cabinet's view on the need for a "rapid and visible response" by the security forces to the new situation.

He welcomed recent moves, including the ending of military patrolling and troop withdrawals, but spoke of "a growing sense among the nationalist community that [the British government's] response was unduly cautious".

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Irish government contacts suggested an acceptance in the unionist community on the need to reduce the security profile in line with the new situation.

Sir Patrick explained the response to the ceasefires was governed by the advice of the chief constable.

Mr Wheeler said that during the `restricted security session' they heard reports from the two police chiefs that the IRA continued to pose a real threat and he believed the security forces had responded imaginatively.

Sir Hugh was "taken aback" by the view demilitarisation should proceed more rapidly.

But Mr Spring pressed the British side to consider dismantling some of the more obtrusive security structures, such as the Rosemount Tower in Derry.

Sir Patrick said he would be glad to see this installation go, subject to security advice.

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Mrs Owen welcomed the news of substantial changes post-ceasefire, reporting that in the Republic gardai had been conducting a major review which would enable them to free up resources to deal with the "scourge of drugs, north and south of the border".

She felt the two police forces should continue to work together on this issue.

The chief constable said loyalist paramilitaries had a long history of involvement with drugs while republicans were "more cunning" and "took a cut from the parties involved".

The Tanaiste noted Cardinal Cahal Daly had spoken of the need for "a great increase in nationalist participation in the police service", saying "new relations with alienated communities needed to be developed".

He said acknowledged the efforts of the RUC to cope with the difficult parading issue on the Lower Ormeau area of Belfast.

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However, he raised the issue of prisoners and felt there was "increasing unease" among both loyalists and republicans at the lack of progress.

The secretary of state said there was a political balance to be struck: "Murder was murder."


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