Wednesday 19 June 2019

Taoiseach's statement helps ease tensions after bomb

The aftermath of the bombing of the Grand Hotel, Brighton.
The aftermath of the bombing of the Grand Hotel, Brighton.

Ralph Riegel

TAOISEACH Dr Garret FitzGerald's immediate condemnation of the IRA's Brighton hotel bombing and his personal condolences to the victims dramatically helped ease Anglo-Irish relations.

Files released under the 1984 State archives revealed Dr FitzGerald's comments about the bombing had a significant impact on public opinion in the UK.

The 20lb gelignite bomb, set off via a long-delay timer, wrecked the Grand Hotel in Brighton on October 12, 1984, during the Conservative Party conference.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet narrowly avoided being killed.

Five people died and 34 others were left badly injured and maimed. Two senior Conservative Party officials were among the dead while Margaret Tebbit, the wife of Board of Trade chairman, Norman Tebbit, was left permanently disabled.

Department of the Taoiseach papers reveal how many British people appreciated Dr FitzGerald's swift condemnation of the atrocity.

Keith Vaughan, a member of the Crawley Conservative Association and a friend of Nicholas Soames MP, the grandson of Winston Churchill, wrote to Dr Fitzgerald on October 24 saying how much his comments meant.

"Your prompt words of condolence and support after the terrible tragedy in Brighton are appreciated very much."

Mr Vaughan, a steward at the conference, attended a reception in the Grand Hotel a short time before the bomb exploded.

"Thoughts of Ireland are never far away and it seems wrong that we have not been good neighbours and better friends in the past," he wrote.

Dr FitzGerald wrote to Mr Vaughan saying that he "sought to convey the revulsion which the overwhelming majority of Irish people felt on learning of the atrocity" and that Ireland recognised it as an attack on democracy.

The Taoiseach also vowed to Mr Vaughan that there would be "no refuge in this State for terrorists."

Another letter was sent to the Taoiseach by retired schoolteacher, Emma Hocking, after her friend, Jean Shattock, was killed. Dr FitzGerald sympathised with Ms Hocking. "Your remarks bring home to us all the utter senselessness of such a terrible crime which deprives the world of innocent people with the great qualities you mention," he wrote.

Irish Independent

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