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

Taoiseach Charles Haughey told British prime minister Margaret Thatcher that the Irish government was ‘constantly ballyragged’ by the British and received ‘no credit’ for the work they had been doing, writes Seán McCárthaigh

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

Taoiseach Charles Haughey told British prime minister Margaret Thatcher that the Irish government was ‘constantly ballyragged’ by the British and received ‘no credit’ for the work they had been doing, writes Seán McCárthaigh

A scene on the border in March 1988. Picture: Eric Bouvet/Getty Images
A scene on the border in March 1988. Picture: Eric Bouvet/Getty Images

In two letters sent to Margaret Thatcher in the summer of 1988, Charles Haughey rejected any suggestion that his government was soft on republican terrorism.

Mr Haughey, the taoiseach, said he had been “deeply perturbed” by comments that Ms Thatcher, the British prime minister, had made criticising his government’s attitude to violence and questioning his commitment to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

In a letter dated June 15, 1988, Mr Haughey said that he was, “by nature and conviction, totally and utterly opposed to all violence and regarded the taking of human life as abhorrent in any circumstances”.

He added: “All my political attitudes and actions are based on that belief.”

In another letter, 11 days later, he claimed that security co-operation between Ireland and Britain was better at that time than at any stage in the past.

Records show he felt it necessary to respond to criticism made by Ms Thatcher, in a letter in which she expressed how she was “deeply upset” by two speeches he had made during a visit to the US in April 1988. She claimed Mr Haughey’s comments had done “a disservice to Anglo-Irish relations”. Ms Thatcher said she was disappointed that the Taoiseach had failed to acknowledge that the goals of the Anglo-Irish Agreement were never going to be achieved without “dedicated and effective cross-border cooperation between our two governments against terrorism”.

She said she was “alarmed that you seem to be arguing that the persistence of violence actually calls into question the existence of Northern Ireland as an entity”. She added: “To me, such an admission would be tantamount to a surrender to terrorism.” Ms Thatcher complained that the issue was too crucial for there to be any doubt about where both governments stood on it, before adding: “And, frankly, we are not receiving full cross-border cooperation on security matters.”

In an impassioned response, Mr Haughey said he did not see the inability to end terrorism in Northern Ireland as a reflection of the commitment of the RUC or British army.

“We, in this country, have a greater interest than anybody else in ending conflict and division in Northern Ireland and the violence which flows from it,” Mr Haughey said.

It was generally accepted that the IRA could not be defeated militarily and what was needed were institutional changes in Northern Ireland and “resolute action” against terrorists, he said

His government was dealing with a “fundamentally different” political environment.

“Our commitment against terrorism is at least as great as yours and our stake in the struggle against it [is] many times greater than yours,” he said.

‘I don’t know what to do about border’

Aoife Moore and Sean McCarthaigh

Margaret Thatcher talks to a member of the Royal Irish Rangers outside the border check point at Derryad in Tyrone.
Margaret Thatcher talks to a member of the Royal Irish Rangers outside the border check point at Derryad in Tyrone.

Margaret Thatcher claimed the gardaí were not a “highly professional police force” and that she had “failed” in a row over the border, State papers have revealed.

Minutes of the “unusually intense” meeting the prime minister had with taoiseach Charles Haughey in June of 1988 showed Ms Thatcher was deeply angry at what she perceived as lack of co-operation from the Irish State and its police in the fight against cross-border terrorism.

The two leaders met on the fringes of a European summit in Hanover where Ms Thatcher warned the taoiseach: “We can’t have the border open as it is now. There are massive caches of arms somewhere.

“We know that there are arms and weapons and we know that they bring them across. We do not get intelligence from the gardaí, they are not the most highly professional police force.”

Mr Haughey rebuked Ms Thatcher, saying the Irish government was “constantly ballyragged” by the British and received “no credit” for the work they had been doing.

“There were 147 punishment shootings in Northern Ireland in a recent period,” he said.

“You had Lisburn. You had Enniskillen. These are not failures of our making. These are things that happen within Northern Ireland where your security forces operate.

“There is no way we can patrol 500 miles.”

Ms Thatcher, who continued to become increasingly exasperated in the meeting, said: “I don’t know what to do about the border.”

In a letter written to Mr Haughey on August 26, 1988, Ms Thatcher said her major concern was to see a marked increase by the Irish security authorities in “pre-emptive intelligence”. “I am convinced that this is the key to improving the effectiveness of all counter-terrorist effort and not least our co-operation in that field,” she said.

She also appealed to the taoiseach to arrange for “much more rigorous” checks on traffic heading to Northern Ireland to try and prevent arms and explosives from crossing the border.

“Clearly for us to do much more on our side would simply present a new and ready-made target to the terrorists,” she said.

Ms Thatcher also called for closer co-operation on joint investigations and “the pooling of intelligence” on IRA activity, particularly in relation to the organisation’s leaders in the Republic.

Ms Thatcher said the Provisional IRA had developed over the years into “a very dangerous organisation”. “The concentration of terrorists in Northern Ireland and the Republic is one of the biggest in the world,” she added.

The Tory leader said she did not underestimate the value of information obtained by routine police work, which was generally shared between the RUC and gardaí, but it was “no substitute for intelligence about terrorist intentions gained by systematic penetration of their organisation”. “We know that on our own we cannot succeed; by working more closely together our strengths can be used to best advantage,” she added.

Ms Thatcher said her urgency in seeking improvement in security and intelligence operations by gardaí was due to the sharp rise in IRA attacks in previous weeks and the quantities of arms available to paramilitary groups.

“We are facing a major terrorist offensive and it is crucial that we step up our joint efforts to counter it,” said Mrs Thatcher.

Mr Haughey subsequently wrote to the British prime minister in September 1988 to report that he had arranged some new initiatives with regard to training for gardaí as promised.

They included 30 selected gardaí being trained in intelligence gathering by the FBI and two garda instructors receiving training from the British military on “search techniques”. Mr Haughey said gardaí had also established a special surveillance unit dedicated to intelligence gathering.

DUP leader survived IRA attack as a child

Ryle Dwyer

DUP leader Arlene Foster, as a schoolgirl, survived a bomb attack on a school bus in Co Fermanagh on June 28, 1988.

She one of 17 students on an Enniskillen-bound bus from Lisnakea when the IRA tried to kill Ernie Wilson, a part-time UDR soldier, by placing a bomb on the vehicle.

Normally, there would have been about 70 students, Catholic and Protestant, on the bus, but it was exam time and the school year was coming to an end.

At his second stop, Wilson picked up two girls — Arlene Kelly [now Foster], 17, and Gillian Latimer, 14. They sat together in the middle of the bus.

The bomb had been hidden in the engine compartment. As the bus was on the outskirts of Lisnaskea, the bomb went off, tearing off the front of the bus.

Fortunately, there were no fatalities. Wilson was shaken and slightly injured but Gillian Latimer was concussed and seriously hurt.

When Arlene Kelly alerted him, Wilson first thought Latimer was dead. She had a very serious injury to an upper arm, which was almost severed. He administered the kiss of life.

“It’s another example of the crazy recklessness of the terrorists,” one witness declared. “They have no regard whatever for life, even the lives of children. It was sheer madness.”

The IRA claimed that the bomb should have gone off when the bus began to move before the driver could pick up any children.

Arlene Kelly, just days short of her 18th birthday on that day, had 10 years earlier witnessed an attempt on her father’s life.

An RUC reservist, he had been shot in the head by the IRA on their family farm but managed to survive. The family moved from the farm into Lisnaskea town.

Arlene went on to marry Brian Foster and, as Arlene Foster, went on to become First Minister of Northern Ireland in 2016.

‘Conlon letter led to prison transfer’

Cate McCurry

Gerry Conlon, the first of the Guildford Four to be freed, outside the Old Bailey in London in 1989. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire
Gerry Conlon, the first of the Guildford Four to be freed, outside the Old Bailey in London in 1989. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

The Guildford Four’s Gerry Conlon claimed a letter he attempted to send to the Irish embassy, in London, complaining about discrimination in prison, was suppressed and was why he was transferred to another prison, previously secret files have revealed.

Mr Conlon was told in early 1988, by the prison’s governor, that he was being moved from HMP Long Lartin, after seven years, to Full Sutton prison, in York, after the letter of complaint was seen by prison officials.

A private letter, dated May 11, 1988, sent to the Department of Foreign Affairs, and released under the 30-year rule, revealed that Mr Conlon appealed for the Irish government’s help to be transferred back to the south of England. Mr Conlon, who died three weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer, in 2014, met with Breifne O’Reilly, the third secretary, at the York prison, after a 28-day ‘cooling-off’ period at Durham Prison.

Mr O’Reilly wrote to Ray Bassett, in the Anglo-Irish division, to say the pair spoke for an hour and 30 minutes. Mr Conlon said he was “quite happy with the conditions” at Long Lartin and said that the complaint letter arose from an incident in March.

Mr O’Reilly said: “Conlon said he was due a visit on March 22, but that when he arrived in the visiting area, he saw a category A prisoner, who was an Aids sufferer, having an open visit. He was asked to wait until the visit was over, which he did. Conlon sought an interview with Governor Whitty on four occasions to protest that he was not allowed an open visit, while a known Aids sufferer was free from such restrictions.

“Conlon claims the governor refused to see him, which led him, on March 28, to write to the embassy, outlining the circumstances and alleging discrimination. After submitting the letter to the censors, Conlon claims he was summoned to the governor’s office that afternoon and was told he would be transferred. He says some of the warders told him he had been a ‘naughty boy’ to write to the embassy with the complaint”.

Mr O’Reilly confirmed the embassy did not receive the letter of March 28 and Mr Conlon claimed it was suppressed. He also claimed that the letter was the reason he was transferred.

Mr Conlon and the other Guildford Four members — Paul Hill, Carole Richardson, and Paddy Armstrong — were sentenced to life sentences for the attacks in Guildford, Surrey, which killed five people and injured 65. Their convictions were overturned in 1989.

Mr O’Reilly continued: “I told Conlon that we had been told by the Home Office that it was to fill the recently opened (York) prison and that, as 50 of the 600 category A prisoners were Irish, it was natural that one or two Irish prisoners should be transferred.

“I also said this was the first time, to my knowledge, that letters to the embassy, from prisoners, had been apparently tampered with or suppressed.”

Conlon said his mother found it impossible to visit him in York.

Haughey surprised his officials by inviting Mitterand to private home

Seán McCárthaigh

Charles Haughey surprised his officials when he insisted that Francois Mitterand visit his private residence in Kinsealy as part of the French president’s State visit to Ireland in 1988.

Records reveal the Taoiseach made the suggestion that Mr Mitterand should also call to his stately home, Abbeville, in north Dublin, after Irish and French diplomats had already agreed the programme for Mr Mitterand’s visit.

Mr Haughey proposed that Mr Mitterand’s helicopter could land at Abbeville, en route from Newgrange to the French embassy in Dublin, where he was staying, on February 25, 1988, for a 30-minute call.

The two political leaders had developed a close personal relationship during their terms in office, with Mr Mitterand subsequently visiting Mr Haughey for a private holiday on the latter’s island of Inishvickillane, off the Co Kerry coast, later that year.

A memo, by an official in the Department of the Taoiseach, on the visit to Mr Haughey’s home, noted that Mr Haughey required a red carpet be put in place on the back lawn of Abbeville.

During the visit, Mr Haughey presented his guest with a specially-commissioned portrait of the writer Samuel Beckett, by the artist Louis le Brocquy, which had cost £2,500.

The official noted that the Taoiseach’s wife, Maureen Haughey, had offered champagne, but “no food”, to their guests. The mansion’s ballroom was off-limits to the visiting party, as Mrs Haughey had said that it was being used to store wedding presents belonging to her daughter, Eimear Mulhern.

No media were allowed to attend the event, although the visit was recorded by a film crew from Windmill Productions.

Later, at a formal meeting, the two leaders spoke of how both countries regularly supported each other at EEC level, with Mr Mitterand observing: “As the EEC train leaves the platform, the UK jumps onto the last carriage.”

Records also show some debate among officials about the choice of wine at a State dinner hosted by President Patrick Hillery in honour of Mr Mitterand. One official noted that a wine merchant had suggested that “the best he could do would be a Sancerre in the B&G (Barton & Guestier) range.

“While it would cost about £10.50 per bottle, the quality is only worth about £5 per bottle,” the official said.

“He would regard it as the best of a bad lot and would not recommend it for such a function.”

A bottle of Chateau de Tracey was ultimately selected, although it was noted that its Irish links were “tenuous”.

The cost of the State dinner in honour of the French president was £15,809, three times the cost of a similar function for visiting foreign dignitaries.

Claims farm security favoured Protestants over Catholics

Michael McHugh

Farmyard security measures on the Troubles-era hard Irish border prompted disputed allegations of discrimination against Catholics, official files reveal.

Roads in Co Fermanagh, leading into Co Monaghan, were closed because of the IRA threat. They were being opened to limited vehicle access by landowners making detours through lockable gates on their farmland, a decades-old British government archive note said.

Northern Ireland Office (NIO) official, Peter Smyth, explained: “The privilege of being allowed to install such gates is apparently not extended to the Roman Catholic community and has caused considerable resentment in the area.

“Old allegations of Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) collusion with the unionist community are reviving.”

Rosslea is a village close to the border. The two communities disagreed how to spell it. In 1994, some nationalists living there felt that Protestants were receiving favourable treatment in accessing cross-border land, an archived British government note, released by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), said.

The dispute highlighted the localised impact of an Irish border that had been closed for years because of republican attacks.

The official record from 1994 surrounded a meeting with an influential member of the community in Fermanagh, Gerry Lynch, and highlighted some of the social sensitivities around the snaking, 310-mile frontier.

Mr Lynch claimed Catholic farmers had approached the RUC to secure access through lockable gates, but had been refused.

Mr Lynch maintained: “Any attempts by Catholic farmers to create temporary by-passes for purposes of bringing in crops quickly attracted the wrath of the police.”

The NIO official added: “All the by-passes he knew of had been granted to Protestant farmers and the perception was growing that, once again, the local Catholics were being treated as second-class citizens.”

Mr Smyth said the RUC considered applications for gates on a case-by-case basis.

He added: “I have no doubt I was given a fairly subjective account of the situation, but there was no mistaking Mr Lynch’s sense of injustice.

“Relations between the nationalist community and the security forces are always delicate around Rosslea and Mr Lynch has worked harder than most to keep things on an even keel.

“He feels that he has gone out on a limb for the past two or three years and is genuinely disillusioned by the apparent failure of the local RUC to make some gesture of reciprocity.”

The official records also discussed security concerns about a future IRA attack on a police station in Co Tyrone, by using an improvised border crossing created by a farmer to straddle a stream on his land.

A four-wheel drive vehicle had been employed in previous attacks and the RUC wanted to excavate the stream to make it impassable to traffic.

The farmer suggested an alternative, involving blocking access to the field, but was unable, for security reasons, to ask local contractors to do the work.

Thatcher feared ‘worst civil war ever’ in Ireland

Seán McCárthaigh

Margaret Thatcher warned Charles Haughey that a united Ireland would lead to “the worst civil war in history”, which would spread to Britain, state papers, released under the 30-year rule, have revealed.

Serious disagreements emerged between the British and Irish leaders during 1988, over the former’s harsh criticism of the performance of gardaí in tackling the IRA.

Rising tension in both countries, over a series of high-profile events, including several IRA atrocities, as well as the Stalker/Sampson affair, the failure of the Birmingham Six appeal, and the Gibraltar Three killings, culminated in Thatcher and Haughey clashing on the fringes of an EEC summit in Hanover on July 19, 1988, in a meeting that an Irish official described as “unusually intense”.

A record of the conversation between the British prime minister and Taoiseach highlighted how Ms Thatcher, frustrated at the lack of progress with the Anglo-Irish Agreement, had developed a trenchant view that there was a major problem with a lack of training by gardaí in intelligence-gathering and surveillance.

She also accused the Irish government of not allowing gardaí to speak to the British army, not even in emergency situations, in the context that IRA operations in Northern Ireland and Britain were “being plotted in the south”. During the meeting, which lasted over an hour and a quarter, Ms Thatcher branded gardaí as “not the most highly professional force,” comparing them unfavourably with police forces in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Israel.

“If we don’t defeat the IRA, I don’t know what I am going to do. We can’t have the border open as it is now,” Ms Thatcher said.

She told the Taosieach that her feelings on the issue “have run far higher than ever before in my life” and that her one objective was “to beat the IRA”.

At one stage, she remarked: “I will never be prepared to walk out and let the terrorists win.”

Ms Thatcher said she was puzzled that the Irish government didn’t know how much weapons and explosives were being moved across the border, given there was a trained Special Branch.

In addition, she questioned Mr Haughey’s view that a united Ireland would be better and said that it would, instead, “be the worst civil war in history. And it would spread to the mainland.” Mr Haughey repeatedly stressed to the British prime minister that any criticism of the efforts made by the Irish authorities to curtail IRA activities was “counterproductive”. “We are doing our best. We have public opinion to deal with. But to be constantly ballyragged does no good at all”. Mr Haughey said methods used by the gardaí were different to those of the RUC “for very good reasons”. He expressed frustration that the Irish authorities got no credit for what they were doing.

“If you keep on belittling what we are doing, we lose heart,” Mr Haughey said.

He accused the British government of also putting forward proposals that Dublin knew wouldn’t work and which would be “totally counterproductive”.

Ms Thatcher replied that instead of dealing with public opinion, she had to deal with “guns, bombs, beating people to death with sticks and many other barbaric acts”.

She later remarked: “I must send more young boys over to their deaths. I ask myself, ‘am I entitled to do it?’”

Ms Thatcher said most of the intelligence that the British authorities had about the IRA came from their own resources and she complained they did not receive any from gardaí. At the outset of the meeting, Mr Haughey said he wanted to convince Ms Thatcher about his commitment to defeating violence.

Mr Haughey said he acted from “the deepest personal conviction” on the issue and he regarded violence as “completely souring and bedevilling Anglo-Irish relations”.

The Taoiseach said he regarded those responsible for such violence as a greater danger to the Irish state than to the British prime minister.

Addressing Ms Thatcher, he said she had to accept the Republic’s complete commitment to tackling violence, but she needed to realise that his government had “to carry public opinion”.

“Many of the measures your people suggest from time to time would, in our considered judgement, be counterproductive. Yet you keep coming back with them. There would be a political backlash, which would make them ineffective or worse,” he added.

He also criticised the British authorities for blaming the Irish government for a lack of cooperation when atrocities happened, regardless of whether they could have been prevented.

Mr Haughey expressed doubt to Ms Thatcher that she was getting “the best assessment of how things are on the ground.” “You could be told that these things would not happen if cross-border security were better. That simply is not true,” he remarked.

He reminded Ms Thatcher that gardaí had carried out searches of 50,000 homes on foot of reports of large shipments of arms to the IRA, which he said was the equivalent of one million houses in Britain.

The Fianna Fáil leader acknowledged that his party was not a signatory to the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985.

“We didn’t altogether like it. But we accept that we are fully bound to implement it and we have done just that,” Mr Haughey said.

On extradition, he told Ms Thatcher that he believed that she and Garret FitzGerald, his predecessor as taoiseach, had been mistaken to make changes to the process, which had resulted in “a tangle” — a reference to the controversial release from custody, by a district court judge, of Patrick McVeigh, who was wanted in Britain on suspected terrorist charges, which Mr Haughey felt was as a result of new extradition procedures.

Ms Thatcher said the British authorities would never have searched 50,000 homes, but, instead, would have used their intelligence services. “That would be a better use of manpower,” she said.

She asked Mr Haughey if he would not consider better training for the gardaí and said she understood if he did not want to accept offers of training in Britain. “I am not concerned about where they get the training, as long as they get it,” she said.

On the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Ms Thatcher said she knew it would take time to implement, but was concerned it “just isn’t working”. The most important element of the agreement was security, but she was disappointed with the lack of action by the SDLP and its leader, John Hume, in supporting it.

She observed: “I don’t want them to just say the right thing in the House. That is not enough. It is their duty to let the police know any information that would be of help. They will speak in general terms, but do little else. They have the gift of the gab, but, no, they won’t talk to their people and tell them to join the RUC. So I have failed.”

Ms Thatcher also expressed concern that she had “lost” the Unionist community.

Towards the end of the meeting, Mr Haughey promised he would look very carefully at the issues of training and pre-emptive intelligence, which had been raised by Ms Thatcher.

The meeting was recorded as concluding “reasonably amicably”.

Birmingham Six lawyers felt 1987 appeal judges were biased

Seán McCárthaigh

Lawyers representing the Birmingham Six in their case before the Court of Appeal in London, in 1987, believed the judges were highly biased in favour of evidence that supported the men’s convictions.

Confidential state papers reveal that Lord Gifford, one of the barristers representing the six men who were serving life sentences for their alleged roles in the bombing of two pubs in Birmingham in 1974, felt pessimistic about his clients’ chances of having their convictions quashed, because of the attitude of the judges in the case, despite strong evidence which pointed at their innocence.

“Too much rides for the judiciary on a case of this magnitude,” Lord Gifford said.

In January 1988, after a six-week hearing, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal by the six men — Hugh Callaghan, Paddy Joe Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power, and John Walker — in a ruling that sparked a major political controversy between the Irish and British governments.

During the court hearings, Lord Gifford and his legal team, including Michael Mansfield and Richard Ferguson, briefed a senior Irish diplomat, Richard Ryan, about the progress of the appeal hearing in November 1987.

Lord Gifford told him that it was difficult to exaggerate the different effect which the proceedings were having on the judges and on what he claims was “the average intelligent observer in court”.

“He is convinced that the judges will do all in their power to defend the legal establishment from being discredited, including Lord Bridge, who is now a Law Lord, who would be discredited if the six got off,” Ryan noted.

“He is pessimistic. At all points, the judges are trying to discredit witnesses and, through aimed interruptions, to unsettle them.”

Mr Mansfield accused the judges of focusing on finding flaws and trying to marginalise any evidence that raised doubt about the men’s convictions. The well-known barrister said defence witnesses had done extremely well and were “much better than expected”.

However, Mr Mansfield said “frequent interruptions of witnesses at odd moments” consolidated his view that there was a strong prejudice on the part of the judges against the appeal.

Another file shows that the British attorney general, Patrick Mayhew, criticised the Irish government’s support for the Birmingham Six and claimed Dublin’s very valid concerns about issues like the non-publication of the Stalker/Sampson report, into an alleged shoot-to-kill policy by security forces in Northern Ireland, were “devalued” by it.

Mr Mayhew told Mr Ryan that there would be no question of the British government accepting the Irish government’s position “at any level.”

A separate file reveals that the Irish ambassador to Britain, Andrew O’Rourke, raised concern over the outcome of the appeal with the British home secretary, Douglas Hurd, at a function in February 1988. Mr Hurd said firmly that there was no possibility of him considering clemency for the Birmingham Six, but that he could not look into the future.

Other records show officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs also noted that the Birmingham Six had “been fed unrealistic expectations” about the Irish government being represented at the appeal.

The Birmingham Six, who were first sentenced in 1976, eventually had their convictions declared unsafe and quashed by the Court of Appeal, in March 1991.

TIMELINE for 1988

Compiled by Ryle Dwyer

Jan 8: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) seize arms from three cars near Portadown, Co Armagh. The weapons were en route to the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

Peter Robinson is re-elected deputy leader of Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), six months after resigning.

Jan 11: John Hume, Leader of Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), meets Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, in Belfast, initiating the peace process.

Jan 15: Death of former cabinet minister and Nobel Peace prize winner, Seán MacBride.

Jan 21: Monsignor Desmond Connell named Catholic Archbishop of Dublin.

Jan 25: Patrick Mayhew, UK attorney-general, announces no prosecutions arising out of the Stalker and Sampson inquiry into six 1982 ‘shoot-to-kill’ deaths at hand of security forces in Northern Ireland (NI).

Jan 26: James Molyneaux, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), and DUP leader, Ian Paisley, proposed a devolved administration for NI, at meeting with northern secretary, Tom King.

Jan 27: “.ie” registered as an internet domain for Ireland.

Jan 28: Court of Appeal turns down appeal of the Birmingham Six, convicted of 1974 Birmingham pub bombings.

Feb 5: John Stalker announces that he was removed from the ‘shoot-to-kill’ inquiry, because his investigations were likely to cause political embarrassment.

Feb 13: Sinn Féin endorses the Adams-Hume talks.

Feb 15: Charles Haughey meets British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, in wake of European Community summit at Brussels.

Feb 21: Aidan McAnespie killed as he walked through border post at Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, to attend a football game.

Feb 23: Private Ian Thain, first British soldier convicted of murder while serving in NI, freed after little over two years in jail and allowed to rejoin his regiment.

Feb 24: Two members of UDR killed by IRA remote controlled bomb in Belfast.

Feb 25: Northern secretary Tom King invites John Hume to devolution talks.

Feb 29: Two members of IRA killed in a premature explosion in County Armagh.

March 6: British Special Air Service (SAS) kills three IRA activists — Mairéad Farrell, Danny McCann, and Seán Savage — in Gibraltar.

March 10: Sixty British Labour MPs denounced Gibraltar shootings.

March 16: Loyalist Michael Stone launches grenade and gun attack on mourners during funeral of Gibraltar Three at Milltown Cemetery, Belfast. Three men killed and 70 people wounded.

March 19: Two British Army corporals, David Howes and Derek Wood, pulled from their car, beaten, and murdered, after straying into Belfast funeral of IRA man killed during Milltown Cemetery incident.

Anti-apartheid rally outside GPO in Dublin attracts 5,000 supporters.

March 31: Amnesty International announces investigation into the killing of Gibraltar Three.

April 8: US Congressman Joe Kennedy meets Taoiseach at Iveagh House, Dublin.

April 13: Dessie O’Hare sentenced to 40 years for kidnapping John O’Grady in 1987.

April 14: Law Lords dismiss appeal of Birmingham 6.

April 16: Proinsias de Rossa elected leader of Workers’ Party, replacing Tomás Mac Giolla.

April 25: Taoiseach Haughey returned from five-day trip to USA and supported John Hume’s idea that Anglo-Irish Agreement should be a stepping stone.

April 26: Mrs Thatcher denounces Taoiseach’s US statements as “irresponsible”.

April 28: ‘Death on the Rock’, TV documentary on Gibraltar killings, broadcast over objections of British foreign secretary, Geoffrey Howe. Thatcher denounced the programme as “trial by television”.

April 30: European Song Contest, hosted at RDS, Dublin, won by Celine Dion, representing Switzerland.

Celine Dion represented Switzerland in the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest.
Celine Dion represented Switzerland in the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest.

May 15: Three Catholic civilians killed and nine wounded in Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) machine-gun attack on the Avenue Bar, Belfast.

Seán Kelly wins Vuelta de Espana (Tour of Spain) cycle race.

May 25: British white paper suggests monitoring religious composition of workforces in NI firms to ensure fairness.

June 7: Northern Ireland Police Federation calls for introduction of internment in both the Republic and NI.

June 11: Ireland beats England 1-0 in Stuttgart, their first match of Euro ’88 soccer finals.

Ray Houghton scores the goal that beat England in the European Championship in Germany.
Ray Houghton scores the goal that beat England in the European Championship in Germany.

June 13: A District Court releases Patrick McVeigh, because state’s case was flawed, in first test of new extradition procedures.

June 19: 250,00 people line streets of Dublin to welcome Irish soccer team home.

June 30: Fr Patrick Ryan arrested in Belgium on suspicion of IRA involvement.

July 4: Chief constable, Jack Hermon, announces disciplinary proceedings against 20 RUC officers in relation to ‘shoot-to-kill’ incidents.

July 18: Freedom of the City of Dublin announced for jailed Anti-apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela.

July 23: IRA bomb attack aimed at High Court judge mistakenly kills a married couple and their six-year-old child at Killeen, Co Armagh.

Aug 1: IRA bomb kills one soldier and injures nine others at army barracks near London, in first IRA bombing in Britain since Brighton in 1984.

Aug 4: IRA kill two Protestant building workers who were repairing police station in Belleek, Co, Fermanagh.

Aug 8: Two Catholic men killed in north Belfast by the Protestant Action Force.

Aug 12: French president, Francois Mitterrand, visits Taoiseach’s holiday island off Kerry coast.

Aug 20: Eight British soldiers killed on a bus when IRA detonated roadside bomb at Ballygawley, Co. Tyrone. 28 injured.

Aug 30: Three IRA members shot dead by SAS soldiers near Drumnakilly, Co Tyrone.

Aug 31: Two Catholic civilians, Sean Dalton and Shelia Lewis, killed by IRA booby-trap bomb intended for security forces in the Creggan area of Derry. A third person, Gerard Curran, died of injuries later.

Sept 4: Galway beat Tipperary 1-15 to 0-14 in All-Ireland senior hurling.

Sept 18: Cork and Meath draw 1-9 to 0-12 in All-Ireland senior football final.

Two women shot dead outside Sligo Regional General Hospital.

Sept 28: UK prime minister Thatcher makes surprise 12-hour visit to Belfast, Hillsborough, Lisburn, and Derry. Loyalists protesters threw eggs at her.

Sept 30: Gibraltar inquest decides SAS acted lawfully in killing three IRA people.

Oct 9: Finance minister, Ray MacSharry, discloses that £500m tax amnesty windfall was £470m more than anticipated.

Meath defeat Cork in All-Ireland senior football final replay, 0-13 to 0-12.

Oct 11: DUP leader, Ian Paisley, removed from European Parliament, for protest while Pope John Paul II was addressing the assembly.

Oct 16: Eamonn Darcy, Ronan Rafferty, and Des Smyth win golf’s international Dunhill Cup at St Andrew’s. They beat Australia in the final, having beaten Canada, the USA, and Britain in earlier rounds.

Oct 18: Irish Times/MRBI poll finds public support for extradition down by 9%, to 31%, while opposition to extradition increases to 44%.

Oct 19: British government introduces broadcasting ban on organisations proscribed in NI and Britain. Restrictions were similar to those directed against proscribed organisations in the Republic.

Oct 20: Northern secretary, Tom King, announces legislation to allow courts to draw an inference from an accused person’s silence when questioned by the police.

Oct 26: After an 11-year campaign, David Norris wins his case in European Court of Human Rights, which rules that Irish laws criminalising consensual gay sex were illegal.

Oct 27: Three people from the Republic — Finbarr Cullen, John P McCann, and Martina Shanahan — found guilty in Winchester of conspiracy to murder northern secretary Tom King.

Nov 8: George HW Bush elected president of USA.

Nov 25: Fr Patrick Ryan, of Rossmore, Co Tipperary, is deported from Brussels directly to Dublin, after Belgian government refused a British extradition request.

Nov 29: European Court of Human Rights finds Britain violated the European Convention of Human Rights by detaining suspects without charge for more than four days. The case had been brought by four men from Northern Ireland.

Dec 13: Attorney-general, John Murray, refused British extradition request for Fr Patrick Ryan. Taoiseach says charges against Fr Ryan should be examined by an Irish court, as he could not expect fair trial in Britain, because of prejudicial comments in Parliament.

Dec 15: British government introduces a Fair Employment Bill for compulsory monitoring of the religious composition of workforces of all companies with 25 or more employees in NI.

Dec 21: Pan Am Flight 103 is brought down by a Libyan terrorist bomb in the luggage over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 on board, and 11 people on the ground.

Dec 22: British government retains a seven-day detention period, despite a recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights.

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