Monday 26 August 2019

Fears of 'big' bomb offensive in Dublin

Former Northern Ireland secretary of state Tom King
Former Northern Ireland secretary of state Tom King

Brian Hutton

The Irish government feared a "big" loyalist bomb in Dublin during a bitter unionist revolt against the Anglo-Irish Agreement, then Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald said.

In a meeting with then Northern Ireland secretary of state Tom King just three months after the historic accord, Mr FitzGerald said people in Dublin were as worried as people north of the Border.

"There was also a fear in Dublin of loyalist bombs and though our present information was that the loyalist paramilitaries were not yet ready to do anything big, we had to do what we could to minimise the dangers," he told the Northern Ireland secretary.

Mr King said he had been "rocked on his heels" by the unionist backlash to the agreement, signed the previous November, notes of the February meeting just declassified under the 30-year rule reveal. He had not expected firebrand Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley to "capture and hijack" Ulster Unionist leader Jim Molyneaux along with "even ordinary moderate unionists".

Secrecy around negotiations leading up to the deal was "a disastrous mistake", he admitted.

"The unionists felt they had been treated like children and, in reaction, Ulster nationalism had reared its head," Mr King said, according to the State papers. "Moderate unionists had been genuinely offended and people were now at the precipice."

In a mark of the fears of the time, Mr King said the backlash to the agreement, which gave Dublin an advisory role in Northern Ireland, could not be over-stated.

"The situation was now more dangerous than it was in 1974," he said, comparing it with the year of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the bloodiest day of atrocities during the Troubles.

Irish Independent

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