Northern Ireland news

Irish official used 'undiplomatic language' over NIO's handling of unionist parliamentary questions

An Irish official used 'undiplomatic language' over the NIO's handling of unionist parliamentary questions in 1997
Éamon Phoenix

IRISH officials claimed unionists were "mischief-making" over the workings of the Anglo-Irish Secretariat.

The secretariat at Maryfield in Holywood, Co Down, was set up under the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985.

Newly-released files from 1997 alleged that David Donoghue, the head of the Irish delegation, had used "emotive and undiplomatic language" at a meeting with his British counterpart Peter Bell over recent parliamentary questions.

According to the minutes, Mr Donoghue highlighted a reply by NIO minister Michael Ancram to a parliamentary question (PQ) from Robert McCartney.

The UKUP MP for North Down had asked for dates and the subjects of briefings provided at the secretariat by the NIO.

Mr Donoghue "repeatedly said, in progressively more emotive and undiplomatic language, that the Irish side would expect to be consulted about all PQs relating to Maryfield".

He added that Irish ministers would most definitely have an interest.

Mr Donoghue also stressed that the Irish side were most concerned about the motives of unionists in requesting such information which could only be construed as being "provocative" and "mischief-making".

In response, Mr Bell stressed that both sides shared an interest in not providing material that "hostile politicians could use against the secretariat".

Not to have provided the information sought would inevitably have further encouraged conspiracy theorists, he said.

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