Garret FitzGerald 'feared Dublin bomb' during revolt against Anglo-Irish Agreement

Garret FitzGerald 'feared Dublin bomb' during revolt against Anglo-Irish Agreement

The Irish Government feared a "big" loyalist bomb in Dublin during a bitter unionist revolt against the Anglo-Irish Agreement, then Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald said.

In a meeting with then Northern Ireland Secretary of State Tom King just three months after the historic accord, Mr FitzGerald (pictured) said people in Dublin were as worried as people north of the border.

"There was also a fear in Dublin of loyalist bombs and though our present information was that the loyalist paramilitaries were not yet ready to do anything big, we had to do what we could to minimise the dangers," he told the Northern Ireland secretary.

Mr King said he had been "rocked on his heels" by the unionist backlash to the agreement, signed the previous November, notes of the February meeting just declassified under the 30-year rule reveal.

He had not expected firebrand Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley to "capture and hijack" Ulster Unionist leader Jim Molyneaux along with "even ordinary moderate unionists".

Secrecy around negotiations leading up to the deal was "a disastrous mistake", he admitted.

"The unionists felt they had been treated like children and in reaction Ulster nationalism had reared its head," Mr King said, according to the State papers.

"Moderate unionists had been genuinely offended and people were now at the precipice."

In a mark of the fears of the time, Mr King said the backlash to the agreement, which gave Dublin an advisory role in Northern Ireland, could not be over-stated.

"The situation was now more dangerous than it was in 1974," he said, comparing it with the year of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the bloodiest atrocity of the Troubles.

"Then the average unionist sat on his hands and done nothing, thereby enabling the extremists to take over. Now the average unionist was very angry and prepared actively to oppose the agreement."

Mr King was trying to fend off Dublin demands for a quick and explicit implementation of the agreement, believing a more subtle approach would stand a better chance of quelling mounting unionist outrage.

Unionist MPs had resigned their seats en masse, sparking Westminster by-elections, unionist-controlled councils refused to set "rates" - a local government tax - and a widespread strike had been called in a so-called loyalist Day of Action which descended into widespread violence.

Pressure to speed up the agreement was "hard to take" in the current environment, Mr King told Mr FitzGerald.

"There was a danger of sectarian killings - that would obviously not be a benefit to the minority," he said.

He added: "Northern Ireland had to be handled with care, day by day, minute by minute."

One of the real worries was that unionist leaders "were like fireworks going off in all directions", he told the meeting.

"Many decent unionists were looking over the precipice and were worried about what they saw," he said. "But they had no leaders, no cohesion and the DUP was in disarray."

Mr King also turned his ire on the SDLP's then leader John Hume.

Mr Hume "seemed happy to let the unionists suffer" but what was "particularly despicable" was his looking forward to a confrontation between the British government and unionists.

The Secretary of State said he understood the Irish Government "did not own the SDLP" but asked Mr FitzGerald if they could "persuade and cajole them".

Mr FitzGerald said he had assumed the British were keeping unionists more fully briefed about the negotiations that led to the Anglo-Irish Agreement than turned out to be the case.

A tactic of leaking details of the talks had not worked because unionists did not believe the leaks, he told the meeting.

"We had obviously got it wrong on that score," he said.

- PA

More on this topic

State Papers 1988: Haughey refusal to extradite ‘mad priest’ riled ThatcherState Papers 1988: Haughey refusal to extradite ‘mad priest’ riled Thatcher

State Papers 1988: Haughey wrote to Thatcher to deny being soft on terrorismState Papers 1988: Haughey wrote to Thatcher to deny being soft on terrorism

Martin McGuinness set up meeting where Frank Hegarty was killed, bishop claimedMartin McGuinness set up meeting where Frank Hegarty was killed, bishop claimed

Garda calls 'were not secure from IRA penetration', state notes revealGarda calls 'were not secure from IRA penetration', state notes reveal


More in this Section

Fears doctors overprescribing antidepressants to patientsFears doctors overprescribing antidepressants to patients

Man and woman arrested in connection with Cork arson incidentsMan and woman arrested in connection with Cork arson incidents

Paschal Donohoe 'recoiled' from Noel Grealish's comments about NigeriaPaschal Donohoe 'recoiled' from Noel Grealish's comments about Nigeria

Man to appear in court in connection with cocaine seizure in DroghedaMan to appear in court in connection with cocaine seizure in Drogheda


Lifestyle

Aileen Lee meets Christina Kenny - co-founder and design director of Lamb Design - to talk about her work and inspirations.Christina Kenny of Lamb Design: ‘I love bringing the outside in and inside out’

Tyrone designer Sharon Wauchob on her career and the worth of luxury fashion. By Paul McLauchlan.From Marc Jacobs to her own label, Tyrone designer Sharon Wauchob on her life in fashion

The recent sentencing of two teenage boys for the murder of Ana Kriégel has once again brought the issue of pornography into public discourse. The details of the case, which are finally coming into public knowledge, illuminate some very worrying trends that are pervasive in the modern adolescent world and as parents and indeed as a society we can no longer languish in complacency.Learning Points: Hardcore porn can pollute our children’s minds

If children are confident in interacting with others it takes away so much stress and social anxiety for them. Not too long ago, my daughter Joan and I were out with friends at a restaurant and we wanted extra water and a few other bits and Joan volunteered to go up and ask the waiter for them. My friend was really surprised at this and said that none of her children would willingly do that.Mum’s the word: We should look for chances to strengthen our kids’ social skills

More From The Irish Examiner