State Papers

State Papers: British searches of vessels on Carlingford Lough raised by Dublin

Irish government complained to British ministers about conduct of Royal Marines in Carlingford Lough
Dr Éamon Phoenix

THE Irish government complained to British ministers about the alleged harassment of vessels on Carlingford Lough by a British patrol boat, manned by Royal Marine Commandos.

The complaint is highlighted in previously confidential files declassified today by the Public Record Office in Belfast.

The issue was first raised by Declan O’Donovan of the Maryfield Secretariat at a meeting of British and Irish officials on October 31, 1991.

In a memo on the file, dated November 15, 1991, the Security Policy and Operations Division of the Northern Ireland Office outlined the 'line to take' by the Secretary of State, Peter Brooke at the forthcoming Anglo-Irish Conference.

This voiced the hope that "patrolling designed to deny terrorists use of the lough should not become the source of political friction" and that confrontations between patrols' yachtsmen should be kept to a minimum.

The brief added that the lough provided "a very real potential opportunity for terrorists".

The memo noted that on October 21, 1991, a boarding party of Royal Marines had searched the yacht, ‘Gurlough’ in Carlingford Lough after which the crew had complained to the Irish government and made a number of allegations.

The crew claimed to have been in Irish territorial waters and that the Marines had no right to board. They were not hostile to the Marines.

However, they claimed that weapons were pointed at them while the boarding party had claimed British ownership of the entire lough. They claimed they had also deliberately drenched the yacht’s crew.

According to the report into the incident by the Senior Naval Officer NI, the Marines, on boarding the yacht, warned that if the crew did not cooperate they would be taken to Warrenpoint (on the northern shore) where the RUC would take over.

The report continued: "It is alleged that weapons were pointed at the yacht crew ... it is probable that these were unintentionally pointed in (their) direction. However, there was no aggression associated with these moves."

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State Papers