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January 01, 2005

01/01/05 - From The National Archive

Monthly Table of Contents 01/05
Monthly Table of Contents 12/04

BB 12/31/04 IRA And UDA 'Held Secret Talks'
BB 12/31/04 Ministers Encouraged IRA-UDA Talks
BB 12/31/04 Loyalist Strike Dismissed As Last Fling
BB 12/31/04 Labour Dismissed ID Cards In 1974
BB 12/31/04 Nuclear Subs Planned For Belfast
GU 12/31/04 Labour In Contact With The Provisional IRA


IRA And UDA 'Held Secret Talks'

Secret talks between the UDA and the Provisional and Official IRA 30
years ago have been revealed in confidential Cabinet papers.

They have been made available under the 30 year rule.

They also reveal an offer from brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin to host
peace talks.

There was also a plan to provide power during the Ulster Workers Strike
of 1974 from a nuclear submarine in Belfast Lough.

It came from the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

The Cabinet papers reveal that the contacts between the terrorist groups
were instigated by the then Ulster Defence Association chairman Andy

They eventually led to a conference attended by more than 60 people at
which there was a certain amount of camaraderie.

It was held at a house in north Down called Laneside.

'Meeting expenses'

The papers say that some of the leaders were clearly anxious to have what
was described as "a meaningful relationship" with one another.

One document said they undoubtedly saw this as a means of getting their
organisations off the hook of having to continue a campaign of violence.

Another document said that though the government could not become
involved in direct financing or control of any political party formed by
any of the groups, it could allow the use of charitable fund money for
specific educational and meeting expenses.

It was the year of the failed power-sharing executive and the Ulster
Workers' strike.

At one point, the papers indicate a fleet of nuclear submarines could
have been brought to Belfast within 48 hours to provide an emergency
power supply.

But it never happened and nor did any peace talks - which the papers show
the unlikely figure of Idi Amin had offered to host in Uganda.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/01 02:15:20 GMT


Ministers Encouraged IRA-UDA Talks

By Dominic Casciani
BBC News at the National Archives

Ministers encouraged links between rival paramilitaries at the height of
the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Papers released after 30 years at the National Archives show ministers
supported talks between the IRA and loyalist Ulster Defence Association.

The talks led nowhere, but officials hoped they would strengthen the hand
of politically-minded figures.

Historians have recorded such contacts were explored, but official
involvement has until now remained largely secret.

In one of the 1974 documents, the then Northern Ireland Secretary, Merlyn
Rees, told Prime Minister Harold Wilson some unnamed leaders from the
Provisional and Official wings of the IRA had met UDA members.

Andy Tyrie, the loyalist organisation's leader, had organised the talks
without the knowledge of many of his supporters, said Mr Rees.

"A recent conference of the three groups, attended by over 60 of their
members, produced indications from politically-inclined Provisional
leaders (particularly the Belfast ones) that they wished to find an
opportunity of halting the terrorist campaign," said Mr Rees.

He went on: "Senior members of the other two organisations indicated some
understanding for the Provisionals' point of view and some willingness to
collaborate in propounding solutions which might permit them to stop.

"There was a certain amount of camaraderie. There are to be further

'Modest unattributable support'

Mr Rees said the meetings were taking place in utmost secrecy, but the
government was providing "modest unattributable support" through channels
the documents does not explain.

A substantial body of opinion within Sinn Fein favours the alternative
of political actions - a reduction in the terrorist campaign, negotiation
with extreme loyalist groups and, ultimately, ourselves

Northern Ireland Secretary Merlyn Rees

These channels may have been clergymen who later helped broker the IRA's
failed 1975 ceasefire.

Mr Rees said: "It is not clear how far the leadership of each group feels
committed to a programme of discussion and compromise or how far each
group can expect to be backed by its rank and file.

"The Officials are probably the most enthusiastic, the Provisionals less
so, and the UDA merely willing to experiment.

"The existence of the programme certainly strengthens the hands of those
in each group who wish to move away from terrorism and there is direct
evidence of this in relation to the Provisionals."

The recent collapse of the Sunningdale power-sharing agreement amid the
Ulster Workers' Council strike had demonstrated the power of loyalist
paramilitaries to influence events in Northern Ireland.

At the same time, there were rumours some loyalists wanted to resurrect
an idea to repartition Northern Ireland, creating a smaller but
exclusively Protestant state.

Documents at the National Archives show British officials knew of the
plot and feared it would lead to a bloodbath, although they were certain
it would fail if attempted.

What however remains uncertain is how the IRA, which is also thought to
have known about this plan, then came to be drawn into discussions with

One theory is that an independently-minded republican took it upon
himself to contact the UDA believing repartition would be good for both

In one of the more bizarre episodes of the Troubles, these contacts led
to a number of UDA men visiting Libyan leader Colonel Gadaffi, then an
enthusiastic supporter of the IRA, in November 1974.

Senior republicans also held meetings with Protestant churchmen during
1974, talks which paved the way for the IRA's abortive 1975 ceasefire.

The IRA reorganised itself for a "long war" and republicans began putting
more effort into Sinn Fein's political campaigning. It was the seeds of
this more complex republican strategy that officials saw in the meeting
with the UDA.

Key figures in Belfast

"A substantial body of opinion within Sinn Fein favours the alternative
of political actions - a reduction in the terrorist campaign; pressure
for the ending of detention (which is a change in tactics); negotiation
with extreme loyalist groups and, ultimately, ourselves," Mr Rees told
the prime minister.

"Unfortunately there is little evidence that its members have realised
their present lack of electoral appeal," he added.

As for the loyalists, Mr Rees believed some members of the Ulster
Volunteer Force were interested in taking a normal political path but
"they are sadly naïve and ill-equipped to do so".

"Our policy should be to continue to keep ourselves well informed with
discreet encouragement but not direct involvement," he said.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/01 03:30:32 GMT


Loyalist Strike Dismissed As Last Fling

By Dominic Casciani
BBC News at the National Archives

Ministers dismissed a strike which wrecked a 1974 power-sharing deal in
Northern Ireland as the "last fling" of loyalist extremists.

The Ulster Workers' Council strike in May 1974 led to the collapse of the
Sunningdale agreement.

But documents released by the National Archives, reveal how the
government underestimated the threat.

Prime Minister Harold Wilson considered pulling out of Northern Ireland
even though it would lead to bloodshed.

The strike came after months of ferocious political opposition from some
unionists to the Sunningdale Agreement.

This deal created a power-sharing executive between unionists and
nationalists and created a role for Dublin in Northern Ireland's

Strike begins

On 15 May the Ulster Workers' Council, a loose coalition of loyalist and
hardline unionist groups announced a general strike.


The Royal Ulster Constabulary are much more wobbly - very wobbly

Merlyn Rees on the prospects of the police breaking the strike

The strike, which lasted for two weeks, would later be enforced by
blockades run by loyalist paramilitaries.

Northern Ireland Secretary Merlyn Rees telephoned Mr Wilson to tell him
not to worry.

He declared the strike was the "last fling by the Protestants" and the
power-sharing strategy was "closer to success than ever".

Within days, the minister's mood had darkened and he flew to Chequers for
emergency talks with the prime minister.

Troops alone were not enough to break the blockades which were fast
bringing Northern Ireland to a halt.

Wilson asked the minister what radical measures could be taken to smash
the strike.

Could the police be used to stage something similar to Operation
Motorman, the 1972 move which broke the IRA's barricades of parts of

"The Royal Ulster Constabulary are much more wobbly - very wobbly," said
the minister.

"Well they are their people," replied the prime minister.

Cabinet meetings

On 24 May Harold Wilson held an emergency Cabinet session to discuss the

He was now convinced the strike was intent on "destroying the
constitution" and without firm action power-sharing would collapse.

But at the same time, officials appeared at a loss as to how to restore

The Army believed it could not run power stations without their managers,
and nobody thought managers could be found from elsewhere.

Four days later the strike broke Sunningdale when the unionist members of
the power-sharing executive quit. The Assembly was suspended and direct
rule from London resumed.

'Armageddon-type situation'

Papers detailing the aftermath of the strike reveal that Wilson was
accused by more than one side of having given in too readily to force.

In talks with the Irish premier, Liam Cosgrove, Mr Wilson defended his
actions, saying "no army in the world however numerous could have broken
a strike of that kind".

But, in a briefing on the aftermath of the strike, one official told the
prime minister that Sunningdale's collapse had indeed strengthened the
hand of extremists.

Setting out scenarios for a way forward, the unnamed official warned that
should a majority of hardline loyalists be elected to a future assembly,
they would probably directly challenge London's authority over Northern

But if events drifted, Northern Ireland could witness a civil war leading
to a redrawing of the border and mass refugee movements as communities
are forcibly moved.

A document still secret, but referred to in other papers, resurrects an
idea from earlier in the Troubles of a complete pull-out from Northern

Such actions would however be an "Armageddon-type situation" with
"humiliation and bloodshed" on all sides, warned an official. In time, it
would suck the Irish Republic into a border war and prompt the United
Nations to prevent sectarian massacres between Catholics and Protestants.

Wilson was clearly depressed by the failure of power-sharing.

He said: "It is clear that we are in the position of 'responsibility
without power'."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/01 03:27:14 GMT


Labour Dismissed ID Cards In 1974

Identity cards were dismissed by Harold Wilson's Labour government as
expensive and ineffective, records have revealed.

Files released to the National Archives under the 30 year rule show that
Home Secretary Roy Jenkins also feared the cards would infringe civil

Current Labour Home Secretary Charles Clarke has dismissed fears the
cards would create a "Big Brother" state.

Records also show that the Princess Royal told an armed kidnapper that
she was not "bloody likely" to obey him.

Ian Ball had pointed a gun at her head as she drove down The Mall in
March 1974 but she refused to get out of her car and later helped capture

IRA bombings

The ID card plan came to the forefront in November 1974, after the IRA
pub bombings in Birmingham killed 21 people and injured more than 160.

We must guard against ... more extreme measures involving unwarranted
infringement of personal liberty

Roy Jenkins

Ministers were under tremendous pressure to act and Mr Jenkins was given
the task of drawing up the emergency Prevention of Terrorism Bill.

But in a frank memo to cabinet colleagues he admitted there was a limit
to what such measures could achieve.

And he issued a sharp warning against responding to the terrorist attacks
by adopting ever more draconian legislation.

"It goes almost without saying that we must guard against the danger of
being driven to more and more extreme measures involving unwarranted
infringement of personal liberty," he wrote.

In the memorandum - dated 24 November, three days after the bombings - Mr
Jenkins acknowledged that the government had to be seen to take some

'Largely ineffective'

In particular, he was conscious of the need to avert reprisal attacks
against innocent Irish people in Britain.

He said: "We are in greater danger of justifiable criticism if we do too
little than if we do too much.

"We must, moreover, take action which is firm enough to pre-empt action
by self-appointed vigilantes."

One proposal considered by Mr Jenkins was new restrictions on travel
between Ireland and the British mainland, but he quickly concluded that a
system of "watertight control" was "not practicable".

"Nor do I see advantage in a system of identity cards, which apart from
creating difficulties for ordinary people would be extremely expensive
and largely ineffective," he wrote.

Instead, he opted for the introduction of spot checks on travellers, a
system of exclusion orders banning terrorist suspects from the mainland
and making IRA membership illegal.

But perhaps the most important element of the Bill was allowing police to
hold terrorism suspects for up to seven days without charge.

Other revelations from the batch of documents include:

Harold Wilson wanted nuclear submarines to power Belfast during the 1974
Ulster Workers' Council Strike.

Ministers dismissed the strike, which wrecked a 1974 power-sharing deal
in Northern Ireland, as the "last fling" of loyalist extremists

Ministers encouraged links between rival paramilitaries at the height of
the Northern Ireland Troubles

The relationship between Harold Wilson and his industry secretary Tony
Benn reached "rock bottom" in 1974

Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath secretly considered serving under his
arch rival, Harold Wilson, in a "Government of National Unity" in the
aftermath of the inconclusive 1974 election

Ugandan dictator Idi Amin offered to save the UK from financial ruin, and
suggested he could broker peace in Northern Ireland

Israeli secret services targeting Ali Hassan Salame, the Palestinian
behind the killing of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, killed
a Moroccan catering worker in Norway by mistake

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/01 05:34:56 GMT


Nuclear Subs Planned For Belfast

By Dominic Casciani
BBC News at the National Archives

Harold Wilson wanted nuclear submarines to power Belfast during the 1974
Ulster Workers' Council strike.

Cabinet documents at the National Archives in Kew reveal the prime
minister suggested the plan as the strike took hold.

The strike, organised by a coalition of loyalist groups, effectively
rendered Northern Ireland ungovernable.

Officials scrapped the plan because submarines had neither the energy nor
the right cable to connect to Belfast.

The strike began on 15 May 1974 as loyalist groups, supported by some
unionist politicians, opposed their own community's involvement in a
power-sharing deal with nationalists.

Loyalist paramilitaries became involved and blockaded key installations
in the hope of bringing Northern Ireland to a standstill.

Power dropped to a bare minimum, petrol stations ran out of fuel and
bakeries were blockaded.

Thousands more troops were sent into Northern Ireland to keep supplies
moving - but as fast as they opened one route, another was closed.

State of emergency

Within four days the situation was so bad Northern Ireland Secretary
Merlyn Rees declared a state of emergency and some areas saw panic

It is clear that we are in the position of 'responsibility without

Harold Wilson

Ulster Unionist leader Brian Faulkner, who supported the power-sharing
deal, told Harold Wilson the executive, which included nationalist
politicians, might not survive if he did not act.

Chairing emergency Cabinet sessions in London, Harold Wilson asked for
radical solutions to break the blockades.

In one session, he asked the defence secretary to report on whether they
could use nuclear submarines to power Belfast.

The short answer was no.

Officials at the Ministry of Defence looked into the idea and worked out
they could have a large submarine, without its nuclear missiles, ready to
leave for Belfast within 48 hours.

Futile gesture

But calculations made by energy experts revealed it would be a futile, if
symbolic, gesture.

While a vessel with the capacity of a Type 82 destroyer such as HMS
Bristol could theoretically provide six megawatts of power, it would
leave the authorities needing to find a further 354 megawatts from

Nuclear submarines would prove doubly useless: nobody knew how to plug
them into the electricity supply in Northern Ireland: there just was not
a cable available which would do the job.

In theory they could be plugged into the National Grid at one of the
royal dockyards in England or Scotland - but that was of no help to
Northern Ireland.

The idea was shelved and the strike took its hold, leading to the
collapse of the Sunningdale Agreement.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/01 03:22:16 GMT


From the national archives

Labour In Contact With The Provisional IRA

Saturday January 1, 2005
The Guardian

Secret contact between the Labour government and the Provisional IRA on a
'non-attributable' basis was authorised by Downing Street.

The opening of government files from 30 years ago shows that despite
repeated public denials, such communication was relatively common. More
and more instances are being uncovered as the history of the Troubles
progressively emerges from official sources.

For years the authorised line was that after the abortive face-to-face
talks in 1972 between the Conservative government and the IRA's
leadership there were no substantive exchanges until the peace process of
the 1990s.

In the past three years, however, the files have disclosed numerous
conversations and briefings.

A note marked Top Secret and Personal from Lord Bridges, Harold Wilson's
foreign affairs secretary, was sent to the Northern Ireland Office in
November 1974. It said: "The prime minister has read with much interest
the minute... about contacts with the IRA. The PM is content that
officials should continue these very, very secret contacts on a non-
attributable basis through both the channels which Mr Rees [the Northern
Ireland secretary] mentions.

"Mr Wilson has, however, commented that although there is clear evidence
of discontent with the IRA, it remains to be seen how far Loughran [a
republican in West Belfast] or others like him can deliver. There would
not seem to be sufficient 'gold backing' to justify any easement on

"Even if our interlocutor speaks with authority, a move on internment
might [not] increase his effectiveness. It could indeed have the contrary
effect by strengthening the more intransigent elements within the PIRA

The files for 1974 also mention, albeit in less detail, an earlier
contact that year with the IRA. The foreign secretary, Sir Alec Douglas-
Home, informed the Irish government in February that the organisation had
sought "reassurance that any Sinn Féin candidates" would not be

"Informant said he represents less hard line faction in [IRA] Army
Council and wanted to encourage move into politics". Sir Alec insisted he
had "not negotiated".

The government in Dublin was also told about the secret deployment of 30
plain clothes SAS soldiers in the province while their presence was still
being denied in official statements.

"Answers i/ to iv/ are confidential and should not be quoted by the Irish
government," the British embassy in Dublin was told.

For much of that year government anxiety focused on the the disruption
caused by "Protestant extremists" determined to bring down the power-
sharing executive. Francis [now Lord] Pym, the Northern Ireland secretary
until Edward Heath's government fell, recorded an intemperate telephone
conversation with Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist party.

Lord Pym had condemned the behaviour of DUP members in the assembly. Mr
Paisley - presumably alluding to IRA bombings - retorted: "The bigger the
stones you throw, the more violent you are, the more HMG listens."

But it was the loyalist workers' strike which confronted the government
with its worst crisis. Harold Wilson's imagination went into overdrive,
flinging out extraordinary ideas which were duly examined and rejected by
themachinery of government. At the height of the strike, when the
province's power stations were shut down, he instructed the Ministry of
Defence to send a nuclear submarine to Belfast so that its reactors might
generate electricity.

"We have looked into this as a matter of urgency," the MoD wrote back on
May 17. "The short answer is that a fleet (ie nuclear non-Polaris)
submarine could be ready to leave Belfast within 48 hours of the order
being given.

"Unfortunately, it would be unable to make a worthwhile contribution to
the electricity supply. The difficulty is that electricity generated by a
nuclear submarine is not compatible with the national grid. Only a few
places, such as the royal dockyard ... have suitable conversion

The prime minister's "Doomsday scenario" withdrawal plans evoked similar
criticism from experienced civil servants.

"If there is to be withdrawal," a memorandum from the Northern Ireland
Office informed Downing Street, "the aim must be to hand over to an
established government.

"But, given the likely situation, a power-sharing government could not be
constructed, and to hand over to a loyalist coalition would be an
encouragement to early civil war. To do this would create a double burden
of criticism for the UK Govt to bear."

Even the home secretary, Roy Jenkins, was resolutely opposed to passport
controls between Britain and Ireland, and to a scheme to introduce
identity cards as a means of combating terrorism after the Birmingham and
Guildford pub bombings.

Monthly Table of Contents 01/05
Monthly Table of Contents 12/04
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