State papers 1988: Shoot-to-kill policy in North a setback to Anglo-Irish relations

Gerard Collins: RUC must not ‘descend to level of terrorists’.

By Cate McCurry

Controversy over the alleged shoot-to-kill policy in the North had grave implications for cross-border co-operation, while Anglo-Irish relations suffered a “serious setback”, newly released state files reveal.

Then Minister for Justice Gerard Collins told a special meeting of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, in February 1988, that it was “impossible to exaggerate the seriousness of the shoot-to-kill policy”.

Mr Collins said the special meeting, at Stormont Castle, in Belfast, was called in response to “very serious concerns”, shared by all sides of political opinion.

The meeting came after the British attorney general made a public statement about the Stalker inquiry.

“This statement, which admits evidence of obstruction of justice, amounts to a declaration that, in Northern Ireland, at any rate, the rule of law takes second, or possibly third place, to non-defined public interest and matters of national security,” Mr Collins said.

That’s the scene as it is and how my government sees the implications of failing to prosecute.

Two British senior policemen, John Stalker and Colin Sampson, investigated a series of incidents that had resulted in the killing of three Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers and, weeks later, six unarmed nationalists.

The two highly classified reports have never been released to the public.

These incidents became known as the controversial ‘shoot-to-kill’ deaths and occurred during the darkest days of the Troubles, in the mid-1980s.

During the special meeting with a number of Irish and British senior ministers, Mr Collins said: “It casts a dark shadow over the RUC and has the gravest implications for cross-border co-operation with the gardaí, apart, altogether, from its impact on relations between the RUC and nationalists in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Collins said that while he had sympathy for RUC members killed during the Troubles, he urged the British authorities to ensure that their security forces did not “descend to the level and methods of terrorists”.

He also raised concerns that if the RUC is known to have shielded officers who are “strongly suspected of serious crime”, this will have an impact on community support in the Republic.

There is also the question about the attitude of individual gardaí,” said Mr Collins. “They will have reservations about making information available to the RUC, if they are not fully confident about the use that may be made of it.

Minister said £660k grant for Apple expansion ‘unwarranted’

By Seán McCárthaigh

In 1988, the then Minister for Finance, Ray MacSharry, claimed that a proposed Industrial Development Authority (IDA) grant of more than £660,000, for the Apple Computers plant in Cork City was “unwarranted” due to the company’s own enormous financial resources.

State papers released under the 30-year rule show that Mr MacSharry opposed plans by the IDA — which were supported by his cabinet colleague, Albert Reynolds, the Minister for Industry and Commerce — to provide a grant of £661,500 to the US computer firm.

Martina Lyons shows her work at the new Apple plant at Hollyhill to Cork TD Gene Fitzgerald and Steve Jobs, Apple vice-chairman

He also objected to a proposal by the IDA to give four acres of land, worth £60,000, to Apple for free.

The company wanted to expand its factory at Holyhill, Cork, and establish a European Repair Centre. It estimated that the expansion would create 60 jobs.

The proposed IDA grant would be a 35% contribution to the £1.89m cost of the expansion.

A memorandum for government showed Mr MacSharry had remarked: “Apple’s record in Ireland, to date, has been very disappointing.”

The minister was informed that Apple had received grants in 1980, on the promise of creating 724 jobs, but this had not happened, as it had overestimated its share of the European market.

Another project, in 1984, which would have created 410 jobs, had been cancelled.

“Job targets have not been ever remotely approached. R&D facilities have not been located here and the skill levels of the workforce are not particularly high,” said Mr MacSharry.

“The parent company has shown a lack of commitment to its Irish operation, by opening a facility in Singapore, which had a direct effect on performance in Cork.”

Mr MacSharry claimed Apple’s ability to have such freedom of action had been facilitated by the lack of full performance and job-related clawback clauses, as well as parent company guarantees.

The Fianna Fáil minister said the lack of such safeguards for the Exchequer in the latest IDA proposal to grant aid to Apple was “particularly worrying, in light of the current difficult budgetary situation, the ever-increasing necessity to obtain value for money from IDA expenditure, and to be more selective in the allocation of such expenditure”. 

Mr MacSharry said he was also concerned that the IDA was planning to give land to Apple for free at a time when it had been instructed by the government to provide £5m to the Exchequer from land and factory sales in 1988.

He complained there was no explanation or justification by the IDA for its actions.

However, Mr MacSharry said his main opposition to the IDA grant for Apple was that it was not necessary for the project to go ahead. He pointed out that the company’s cumulative, post-tax profit for its Cork plant was £125m for 1987-1989.

In support of the IDA, Mr Reynolds said the expansion would enable Apple to manufacture the full range of its computers for the European market.

While acknowledging that Apple was profitable, Mr Reynolds said he accepted the IDA’s view that there was a “serious danger” of the project being moved outside Ireland if the grant was not available.

Apple, which has been based in Cork since 1980, enjoyed a tax-free break for the first 10 years of its operations.

In recent years, the company was at the centre of a global controversy when the European Commission found that Ireland had granted undue tax benefits to Apple and ordered the government to recover €13.1bn in taxes from the US multinational.

Apple’s European headquarters at its Holyhill campus in Cork today employs around 6,000 staff.

Ahern pushed for Aer Lingus to buy Great Southern Hotels

By Seán McCárthaigh

The then Minister for Labour Bertie Ahern pushed for the sale of the Great Southern Hotels chain (GSH) to Aer Lingus in 1988, for at least £10m, new State papers reveal.

The State-owned airline had already made a formal bid of £7.25m for the group of six hotels, which were emerging from a troubled financial period.

Ryanair and the Irish Continental Group (ICG) had also submitted higher offers to buy the hotel group.

Ahern in 1987

Records show that the government, led by Taoiseach Charles Haughey believed that a decision on the future of the State’s holding in the hotel group was necessary to counter media speculation about the imminent sale.

However, the Aer Lingus proposal was criticised by the Minister for Finance, Ray MacSharry, who claimed that the principle of maximising the sale of State assets would not be observed by following Mr Ahern’s recommendation.

Mr MacSharry said that 100% of GSH should be sold by open tender, without conditions.

He pointed out that there had been a limited invitation to tender to five companies, while Mr Ahern had also indicated that he had received approaches from several other bodies about acquiring the hotel group.

“There are no guarantees that there are not other interests prepared to tender,” Mr MacSharry said.

He complained that Aer Lingus could buy 100% of GSH, but Ryanair and ICG were told that the State would still retain up to 30%.

The six hotels in the group were the Great Southern in Killarney and Galway, the Torc in Killarney, Parknasilla in Sneem, the Corrib in Galway, and the Rosslare.

In 1983, the then Minister for Transport, Jim Mitchell, had recommended the sale of the hotel group, but the government decided, at the time, to retain it under State control, but to transfer it from CIÉ to Cert.

The following year, the government approved £14m funding to help the group and it provided a further £2.7m in 1986.

Mr Ahern pointed out that the group had moved from a loss of over £1.5m, in 1983, to a trading profit of £687,000, in 1987.

He said Aer Lingus already had experience operating hotels, as it owned the London Tara, the Commodore in Paris, and the Hotel Santiago in Tenerife, as well as having a 20% shareholding in Jurys Hotels.

However, he warned that the proposal could face opposition from the rival, privately-owned hotel group, Ryan’s Hotels.

The Minister for Labour argued in cabinet that he was satisfied there would be “hostile trade union reaction” to privatisation of the group, while its sale to the private sector would result in a loss of revenue, due to tax offsets arising out of cumulative losses of £3.2m. GSH had around 170 permanent staff, plus 300 seasonal and casual workers.

Mr Ahern, who regularly spent his summer holidays in Parknasilla, said he believed his own estimate of £10m was “reasonable”.

Despite Aer Lingus’ interest, the GSH group subsequently came under the control of Aer Rianta (now the Dublin Airport Authority), before their sale for €265m in 2009 to several different buyers.

Pope’s return ‘up to Hillery’

By Seán McCárthaigh

Members of the clergy expressed concern to various government ministers in 1988 that Pope John Paul II could not visit Ireland for a second time unless the President, Patrick Hillery, first made a State visit to the Vatican.

Civil servants observed that various government ministers had received similar representations from individuals, including many priests, during the summer of that year, about the possibility of a return visit to Ireland by the Pope.

Pope John Paul’s highly successful three-day visit, in autumn, 1979, was the first-ever to the Republic by a serving pontiff.

Many of those who had lobbied ministers said that a second visit was not possible until President Hillery had made a return State visit to Rome.

Records from State papers, released under the 30-year rule, show the Irish ambassador to the Holy See advised the government that Vatican officials believed a State visit by the Irish president was due, in return for the Pope’s visit to Ireland nine years earlier.

The ambassador informed the Department of Foreign Affairs that it was commented on, from time to time, in Rome, that Ireland was one of the few friendly states whose head of state had not paid a visit to the Pope.

The ambassador suggested a State visit by Mr Hillery to the Vatican, in the days preceding the planned beatification ceremony for Fr Charles of Mount Argus, in October 1988, to which the President had already been invited.

Documents reveal that the Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, had advised the President against accepting the invitation to the ceremony, as it was not usual for heads of State to attend beatifications, and that a member of the government would be a more appropriate representative.

It was also observed that Fr Charles, despite the long period he had spent in Dublin, was a Dutch national and it was unlikely that the Netherlands would be represented by Queen Beatrix.

It was decided the question of a State visit to the Vatican would be given separate consideration at a later date.

In response to representations from the public, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Lenihan, replied that the Pope’s visit in 1979 was “essentially seen as a pastoral visit”, rather than a State visit.

Kavanagh: I’ll wreck the joint

By Seán McCárthaigh

Gardaí were deployed on a stakeout of some of Dublin’s best-known bookshops in 1938 amid fears that one of the country’s most famous poets would cause trouble in a row over their reluctance to stock one of his novels.

A secret Garda file released by the National Archives under the 30-year rule show an investigation was carried out in late 1938 after Patrick Kavanagh had threatened several booksellers in the Nassau St and Grafton St areas as a result of his belief that they had been intimidated into not selling his novel, The Green Fool, by another writer, Oliver St John Gogarty.

The loosely autobiographical novel, which had been published earlier that year, caused controversy over its contents which suggested Gogarty had a wife and a mistress, over which he subsequently successfully sued Kavanagh.

One bookseller who had been threatened by Kavanagh, Marcus Noone, of Browne and Nolan of Nassau St , said he had not stocked The Green Fool because he had read it and recommended against selling it “owing to its anti-Catholic outlook” and what he believed were libellous references to Gogarty.

The Garda files show Kavanagh called in to a number of bookshops on October 25-26, 1938, demanding to know if copies of his book were being sold.

In Browne and Nolan, Kavanagh had adopted “a menacing attitude” and started shouting that “this is a fascist state”.

When informed in Fred Hanna’s on Nassau St by the manager, Arthur Hanna, that there was only one copy, Kavanagh demanded to know why it was not displayed in the shopfront window and remarked that Buck Mulligan (another name for Gogarty), “should not dictate to the trade”.

The following day, Kavanagh returned to the shop and told Hanna: “You’ve got 15 minutes to put my book in the window. This is an ultimatum.”

The writer returned about 80 minutes later and started throwing books off the shelves onto the floor.

The Green Fool

When a shop assistant tried to stop him, Kavanagh said: “Are you looking for a fight? My name is Kavanagh and I’m an Irish poet. They are not giving my book a fair do. They are not displaying it in the window.”

Kavanagh, reported to have had “some drink taken”, threatened to break Hanna’s skull on hearing he was not in the shop and warned he would “wreck the joint”. The Garda report noted that Hanna decided to put a copy of The Green Fool in the window to prevent any recurrence. Kavanagh returned later that day and thanked Hanna for putting his book on display.

Earlier that morning, Kavanagh had entered Hodges and Figgis on Nassau St and threatened that something might happen if his book was not put in the window. He returned a few hours late and began throwing books on the floor.

Although gardaí were called to the scene, the owner, William Figgis, decided not to press charges against Kavanagh.

A similar incident happened in the Grafton Bookshop on Harry St, with Kavanagh giving the manager an ultimatum about stocking his book by the following Saturday.

All staff said that while Kavanagh was aggressive, they were not afraid of him. They told gardaí they were concerned he would cause damage to the premises.

Gardaí noted that all believed the poet was either obsessed by the idea that there was an attempt on their part to boycott his book by giving it little or no prominence or that he was “seeking notoriety or publicity” by trying to create a scene.

Haughey wanted £85k for functions

By Seán McCárthaigh

A row broke out between senior civil servants from the Department of the Taoiseach and from the Department of Finance over attempts to limit the entertainment budget of Charles Haughey in 1989.

State papers show Mr Haughey also opposed proposals by the Department of Finance to reform accounting arrangements for expenditure on state functions.

An official from Mr Haughey’s department claimed plans to limit the Taoiseach’s state entertainment budget for 1989 to £60,000 was “unacceptable”. The official said a revised offer, of £65,000, was also unacceptable. Haughey’s department wanted £85,000. Following further negotiations, it was agreed by the two departments to settle on £80,000.

Charles Haughey also opposed reform of accounting arrangements for spending on state functions.

However, the Department of the Taoiseach subsequently sought a further £5,000 to allow for “contingencies”. The request was refused by the Department of Finance. 

The Department of Finance pointed out that the expenditure on entertainment by the Taoiseach’s department in the three previous years had been £67,000, £29,000, and £58,000, so the proposed budget for 1989, of £80,000, was “more than adequate”.

In a letter to the secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach, Padraig Ó hUiginn, his counterpart in the Department of Finance, Seán Cromien, said the accounting arrangements for state entertainment were “unsatisfactory.” Expenditure on state dinners, and other similar functions, was financed out of a miscellaneous fund accessible to all government departments. Instead, the Department of Finance wanted to allocate a provision for entertainment costs as part of the individual budget for each department.

Mr Cromien said it was “entirely anomalous” that he should have to be answerable to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee for expenditure incurred by other government departments over which he had no direct control.

Mr Ó hUiginn said Mr Haughey was opposed to any changes in the accounting arrangement and that the expenditure on state entertainment incurred by the Taoiseach varied considerably each year, with substantial costs sometimes arising at short notice, due to state visits by foreign dignitaries.

Figures showed the cost of a state visit to Ireland by the French president, Francois Mitterand, in 1988, was £20,568. That was twice the cost of a similar visit by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

The then minister for finance, Albert Reynolds, supported the introduction of new, “uniform and consistent” accounting arrangements, from January 1, 1989, for the cost of hosting social events, in order to “place direct responsibility and accountability for all expenditure incurred with the department/office concerned”. Mr Reynolds stressed the need for “strictest economy” in all entertainment expenditure and said there was an obligation on everyone to curtail costs.

Airport was nearly called ‘Killarney International’

By Seán McCárthaigh

Kerry Airport, which is sometimes known as Farranfore Airport, could have had another name.

Records released by the National Archives show there was backing among government officials and the airport’s board of directors for it to be called Killarney International Airport.

A memo from an official of the Department of the Taoiseach, who visited the airport, said it would likely be the name for the new airport, which was due to have its first scheduled commercial flight in 1989.

The senior civil servant said Killarney International Airport was the name under consideration, as it would maximise its attraction to visitors from the US, Britain, and mainland Europe.

The official said it had “phenomenal tourism potential”, due to its location in the heart of Kerry and its short driving distance to all the county’s main tourist attractions.

Aer Lingus had already committed to operating scheduled flights from the airport, while Ryanair and British Airways had also expressed interest.

The official said he believed the airport’s own estimate, that it would have passenger traffic of up to 50,000 in its first 18 months, was conservative.

At the time, Denis Brosnan, chairman of the Kerry Group, had taken full responsibility for fundraising for the airport’s directors, hoping to raise £800,000 in a share capital programme from private sources, in addition to £1.125m in State grants.

The official said the airport was “a shining example of the correctness of our approach towards regional airport development and our preference for an organisational structure with strong local authority/business representation”.

Records show ministers also wanted to know if the government jet could use the new runway at Kerry. However, they were informed the runway could not accommodate private jets and that extending the runway would cost an extra €3m.

The first scheduled flight landed on May 22, 1989, an Aer Lingus service from Dublin, followed, the next day, by a Ryanair flight from Luton.

A record 335,500 passengers passed through Kerry Airport last year.

MacSharry wanted to end Prize Bonds

By Seán McCárthaigh

The then minister for finance, Ray MacSharry, recommended shutting down the long-running Prize Bonds scheme in 1988 and returning all money to bond holders.

Ray MacSharry

Documents released under the 30-year rule show Mr MacSharry favoured an orderly winding-down of the €83m scheme. It was established in 1956, and was adding £2.5m to its fund each year. Mr MacSharry said it had been operated on an agency basis by the Bank of Ireland, which charged an administrative cost equivalent to 8.7% interest. This, he claimed, was “relatively expensive”. Bank of Ireland wanted to withdraw from running the scheme, because they did not believe it provided a reasonable return.

In a memo to government in September 1988, Mr MacSharry said the business was no longer manageable, as it had 10m pieces of paper on file and computerisation had become an urgent necessity, but would require £2m and 18 months to complete.

The minister said his priority was to raise a significant amount of funds for the exchequer at a reasonable cost. “In the context of the exchequer’s total annual borrowing operation, net receipts of less than £3m a year are nowhere near enough to make the scheme worthwhile,” said Mr MacSharry.

He added: “Given the size of the population and the nature of the scheme, even with an aggressive marketing programme, there is little prospect of increasing the annual inflow to the exchequer substantially”. Mr MacSharry said prize money could not be increased substantially.

He suggested one alternative to the winding-up of the scheme was to put it out to tender. He noted that two companies, An Post and Fexco, had declared an interest in operating Prize Bonds, and could provide the necessary investment and working capital.

Mr MacSharry was appointed as Ireland’s EEC commissioner a short time later and the government did not proceed with his recommendation. In 1989, a contract to run the scheme was awarded jointly to An Post and Fexco. At the end of 2017, the value of the Prize Bonds fund, which is now managed by the National Treasury Management Agency, was €3.1bn.

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