Tuesday 16 October 2018

'Soviet threat' tactic used on Bush

George Bush was urged to get more involved in tackling the Troubles
George Bush was urged to get more involved in tackling the Troubles

The Government tried to get George Bush more involved in tackling the Troubles by warning that the USSR would exploit growing IRA support.

State papers have revealed that ahead of a one day visit to Dublin in 1983, officials said the Taoiseach should use the Soviet threat as a way of getting support from the then US vice-president.

The advice was offered amid planning for the Fourth of July arrival but White House aides were less preoccupied with the Northern Ireland question and more on arrangements for a "spontaneous meet-the-people" stop for Mr Bush in a pub.

But seeing an opportunity to get Washington on board with the political situation, advisors to Garrett FitzGerald and Minister for Foreign Affairs Peter Barry urged them to use the growing terror threat and closeted support for the Provos to drum up interest.

"It is suggested that the Taoiseach and the Minister rather than stressing the fact that Sinn Fein made little or no gains in the recent election, should on the other hand emphasise the present serious level of support and the opportunities which this creates for subversion and indeed outside (Soviet) exploitation," documents released under the 30 year rule revealed.

The steering note in files from the Department of Foreign Affairs said that Dublin felt the British Government was not taking the Northern Ireland question seriously.

Officials told the Taoiseach to warn vice-president Bush that Sinn Fein was becoming an increasing left wing party and that nationalists were feeling increasingly alienated from the political process in Northern Ireland.

They said that covert support for republican leaders would not have been expected in 1981, during the Hunger Strikes, and is a threatening situation.

Ahead of the visit, Bush's advisers in Washington told Irish diplomats that they felt it was unfortunate that he would be in London before Dublin otherwise he would offer to convey an "American message" to Margaret Thatcher.

Press Association

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