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Sunday 15 July 2018

Haughey did not want IRA's Gibraltar dead flown back to Dublin

The NIO file said Charles Haughey’s idea following the Gibraltar killings was that the RAF would fly the bodies direct to Belfast, rather than via a charter flight to Dublin organised by the dead men’s families. Stock picture
The NIO file said Charles Haughey’s idea following the Gibraltar killings was that the RAF would fly the bodies direct to Belfast, rather than via a charter flight to Dublin organised by the dead men’s families. Stock picture

Michael McHugh

Charles Haughey did not want the bodies of three IRA members shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar to be taken home through Dublin, archived British papers reveal.

The SAS opened fire in March 1988 and claimed afterwards that they believed the republicans were about to detonate a remote-controlled bomb.

The then-Taoiseach wanted the RAF to fly their remains straight to Belfast, rather than allowing their families to bring them through Dublin, for fear that this would turn into a propaganda coup for Sinn Féin.

The secret intervention by Mr Haughey was disclosed in Northern Ireland Office documents newly released by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

An official wrote: "[Mr] Haughey implored us personally through the ambassador in Dublin to ensure that the bodies of the three IRA terrorists shot in Gibraltar were kept out of the Republic at all costs. He made clear that he would not admit to this request in public."

An inquest found by majority verdicts that the SAS had acted within the law when they shot dead the unarmed republicans, who were hailed as martyrs by IRA supporters.

Daniel McCann (30), Seán Savage (24) and Mairéad Farrell (31) were gunned down as they walked towards the Spanish border.

Critics of Margaret Thatcher's government claimed that this was part of an unofficial shoot-to-kill policy being pursued against the IRA.

The NIO file said Mr Haughey's idea following the Gibraltar killings was that the RAF would fly the bodies direct to Belfast, rather than via a charter flight to Dublin organised by the dead men's families.

A civil servant wrote: "This proposal is clearly designed to solve a problem confronting Mr Haughey. It has, however, the attraction for us that it could short-circuit the current plans of the terrorists' relatives, to whom the bodies have been released today."

He said the families wished to take the remains to Dublin to secure maximum political advantage for Sinn Féin.

The official said one of the sticking points with the families was the use of Aldergrove airport in Co Antrim, which was regarded as unionist territory.

Another civil servant said it was "inconceivable" to use the RAF to fly the bodies home.

At the trio's funerals in Belfast's Milltown Cemetery, loyalist gunman Michael Stone opened fire and threw grenades at mourners, killing three and wounding 50.

Three days later, two British soldiers were seized by a mob while driving through west Belfast during the funerals of those killed at Milltown.

They were dragged from their car by a mob and murdered, with the disturbing scenes widely broadcast on television.

Irish Independent

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