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John Taylor: 'British aware of Irish government plans to invade north'

Former Stormont minister John Taylor
Connla Young

FORMER Stormont minister John Taylor has said British authorities were aware of a secret Irish government plan to invade the north in 1969 and were preparing to "repulse it".

Mr Taylor, who is also known as Lord Kilclooney, last night revealed that as the crisis deepened he was asked to liaise with security forces.

His intervention came after civil rights veteran Killian McNicholl claimed this week the invasion plan had been called off at the last minute.

While it was already known that the Irish government had drawn up a blueprint to cross the border in 1969, Mr McNicholl revealed fresh details.

Speaking about the plan for the first time this week the 82-year-old Dungannon native told The Irish News how he acted as a guide for Irish army officer Captain James Kelly in 1969 as he searched out potential border crossing points.

Killian McNicholl. Picture by Mal McCann.

He said he agreed to act as a guide for Captain Kelly after a request from Belfast republican John Kelly, who was a leading figure in the Citizen Defence Committees, set up to protect nationalist districts in the late 1960s.

He also revealed how he was in a house in Dublin with former Irish government minister Neil Blaney when the daring operation was dramatically called off at the last minute.

Mr Taylor last night said details of the plan were known by British and Stormont authorities.

"At that time in 1969 the Northern Ireland government at Stormont and the UK government were well aware of the possible invasion and were preparing to repulse it," he said.

Mr Taylor said that he was dispatched to liaise between the RUC and then Stormont Prime Minister James Chichester Clarke.

"As a Junior Minister at Home Affairs at the time - not then the Cabinet Minister at Home Affairs - I was instructed by Prime Minister Chichester Clarke to go straight to RUC HQ at Knock to liaise with the security forces and to keep him personally informed of the possible Irish Invasion.

"Lynch wisely backed off."

Mr McNicholl was a founding member of the civil rights movement in Dungannon and was later interned.

He has now revealed how he was asked to travel to an address in north Dublin on the date the invasion was due to take place. He claims several other people were present including Donegal TD Neil Blaney and Belgian businessman Albert Luykx, who were both later involved in the 1970 arms crisis.

According to Mr McNicholl, the Irish army had been ordered to launch the operation at 2am from a “centre point” in Monaghan but that the invasion was halted minutes before it was to take place.

He said government minister Kevin Boland rang the house and believes taoiseach Jack Lynch gave the cancellation order. Mr McNicholl said the operation was part of a plan to highlight the plight of northern nationalists and force an international intervention to ease their plight.

"The reason for this was not that the Irish government wanted a united Ireland there and then, it was to protect the Catholic people because they were being slaughtered,” he said.

"The idea of the whole thing was to create that big an incident that the United Nations would have had no choice but to have come in."

He claims that British military intelligence were aware of the plan.

"I am 100 per cent confident that the British, MI5 or MI6, were involved in Jack Lynch’s decision, either through the Garda Síochána or the TDs they had in their pocket," he said.

"I am convinced the intent was there because I would not have been in that house that night if it had not been."

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