Tuesday 11 December 2018

Rev William McCrea 'urged air strikes on Republic'

Adrian Rutherford

A democratic Unionist MP wanted the British government to launch air strikes on the Republic in the 1980s.

William McCrea also called for bombing raids on republican strongholds in the North, according to official papers.

Rev McCrea wanted "Libyan-type strikes" against Dundalk and Drogheda in the Republic, as well as Crossmaglen and Carrickmore in the North.

He called for the attacks in April 1986, just days after the US government had bombed Libya. At least 100 people died after planes bombed targets in the capital Tripoli and the Benghazi region.

The extraordinary demand is discussed in previously classified British government papers.

The documents, held by the Public Record Office, have been released under the 30-year rule.

One memo reports on the DUP annual conference in Belfast on April 19, 1986.

Welcome

Noel Cornick, an official at the NIO's Political Affairs Division, wrote that staff from the division had not been welcome at the conference.

His briefing paper appears to be based on a mixture of press reports and briefings from party insiders.

It reports: "Rev William McCrea urged Libya-type strikes against Dundalk, Drogheda, Crossmaglen and Carrickmore."

The memo noted that another senior DUP member, Gregory Campbell, made an "extravagant contribution" when he called for "even the foundations of Maryfield to be demolished".

Maryfield was the Belfast base for officials from the Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs.

Rev McCrea, a Gospel-singing Free Presbyterian minister, is known for his hard-line views.

He served as DUP MP for Mid-Ulster between 1983 and 1997, and has been MP for South Antrim since 2000. In 1996 he was criticised after sharing a platform at a Portadown rally with LVF leader Billy Wright.

Irish Independent

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