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Saturday 21 September 2019

State Papers 1988: Unionist MP proposed excommunicating IRA members to limit funerals to 'modest affairs'

  

Shot dead: Corporals David Howes and Derek Wood
Shot dead: Corporals David Howes and Derek Wood

A Northern Ireland Assembly speaker suggested that churches should excommunicate IRA members in a bid to limit their funerals to "modest affairs", state papers have shown.

The suggestion by Unionist MP Jim Kilfedder came days after one of the most high-profile double killings, when British army corporals Derek Wood and David Howes were beaten and shot dead after they inadvertently drove into an IRA funeral.

The double killings provoked outrage among MPs at Westminster.

A memo written by an Irish Government official said that Mr Kilfedder raised the possibility of a Church excommunication of IRA terrorists, which "might in consequence reduce their funerals to very modest affairs".

Former DUP leader Peter Robinson suggested that the soldiers had refrained from opening fire because of fear of repercussions.

"He had asked the secretary of state [Tom King] to make clear that he would stand behind any members of the security forces who had to defend their lives in such circumstances," the Irish official said in the memo.

It also emerged that the British joint secretary told an Irish Government official there was a prospect of a public controversy "looming between the RUC and ITN and BBC" over RUC access to the television tapes of the killings.

Irish Independent

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