Jan 8: A snowstorm hits the country in the worse freeze in decades.
Jan 16: Britain and the Vatican establish full diplomatic relations, ending the rift that began when King Henry VIII broke with Roman Catholicism in 1532.
Jan 21: Charlie McCreevy is expelled from Fianna Fáil for criticising Charles Haughey.
Jan 21: Charles Self, a gay RTÉ producer, is murdered.
Jan 27: The Government’s budget is defeated in the Dáil. President Patrick Hillery refuses to take telephone calls from Mr Haughey.
30 Jan: More than 200 people are arrested in Gdansk after clashes with police.
Feb 1: Corporal punishment is banned in schools in the Republic.
Feb 2: The Syrian military under president Hafez al-Assad attack the city of Hama, under control of the Muslim Brotherhood. More than 10,000 are killed.
Feb 12: The DeLorean Car Company goes into receivership.
Feb 16: Vivion de Valera, managing director of The Irish Press, dies.
Feb 18: General election. Fianna Fáil wins 81 seats, Fine Gael 63, Labour 15, and others win 7 seats. Pat O’Connor, Mr Haughey’s election agent, is arrested for double voting.
Feb 19: Garda Patrick Reynolds is shot dead in Tallaght, Co Dublin.
Feb 20: Ireland defeat Scotland 21-12 to win rugby’s Triple Crown.
Feb 23: Mr Haughey meets Tony Gregory to discuss a deal for his support.
Feb 25: Des O’Malley announces a challenge to the Fianna Fáil leadership, but Mr Haughey is reaffirmed as leader hours later after Mr O’Malley withdraws his challenge.
Feb 28: Bill Loughnane, TD, accuses Jack Lynch of being the main instigator of the O’Malley challenge. Mr Lynch denies this but adds: “I would favour Des O’Malley as party leader and would wish to see him as a future taoiseach.”
Mar 4: Gerard Tuite is arrested and charged with offences committed in Britain.
Mar 8: Mr Haughey signs a deal for Mr Gregory’s support after three meetings.
Mar 9: Mr Haughey is elected taoiseach for the second time, and Mr Gregory releases details of the deal.
Mar 10: George Colley refuses to serve in cabinet because Mr Haughey would not appoint him tánaiste.
Mar 12: Members of the 23rd Dáil meet for the first time.
Mar 17: Mr Haughey visits the US.
Mar 20: The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries cuts oil productions to 700,000 barrels a day.
Mar 29: Dick Burke of Fine Gael agrees to become Irish commissioner to the EEC.
Apr 2: Argentine forces invade the Falkland Islands.
Apr 3: British prime minister Margaret Thatcher sends large naval force to the Falkland Islands and announces the freezing of Argentine assets in Great Britain.
Resolution 502 is passed at the UN calling for Argentina to withdraw.
Apr 5: The British publish the White Paper, A Framework for Devolution.
Apr 6: James Prior launches a rolling devolution for the North.
Apr 18: Fishing trawler Sherelga sinks off Dublin Bay after being dragged under after British nuclear submarine Porpoise snagged its nets.
Apr 20: Charges against Pat O’Connor for double voting are dismissed in court on a technicality.
Apr 22: Síle de Valera condemns the Government for its attitude to the Falkland’s War.
Apr 25: Sinn Féin: the Workers’ Party changes its official name to the Workers’ Party.
Apr 28: Work begins on the Cork/Dublin gas pipeline.
May 2: The government affirms its neutrality in the Falklands conflict between Britain and Argentina, and opposes EEC sanctions against Argentina.
May 3: Defence minister Paddy Power denounces Britain’s sinking of Argentine cruiser General Belgrano with the loss of 321 lives.
May 4: Mr Haughey reportedly meets the British ambassador about the Falklands.
May 6: Ireland announces its intention to ask the EEC to end sanctions against Argentina. Mr Haughey said “sanctions complementing military action are not acceptable to us as a neutral country”.
May 10: A tap is placed on Bruce Arnold’s telephone.
May 12: A Spanish priest, Juan Fernandez Krohn, tries to attack Pope John Paul II with a bayonet during a candlelit procession in Fatima, Portugal. He called the pope an “agent of Moscow”.
May 21: British forces land on East Falkland Island.
May 23: Mr Haughey predicts that Eileen Lemass will win Dublin West by-election “easily”.
May 24: Some 20,000 people march in protest at income tax and PRSI charges.
May 25: Liam Skelly of Fine Gael wins the Dublin West by-election.
May 28: Conservative MP Tony Marlow refers at Westminster to Mr Haughey as “a henchman for General Galtieri”, the Argentine president.
Jun 6: Israel invades the Lebanon in an offensive against the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
Jun 8: In the first address to a joint session of the British parliament, US president Ronald Reagan predicts Marxism-Leninism would end up “on the ash heap of history”.
Jun 15: The Falklands war ends as Argentine troops surrender in Stanley. Some 255 British soldiers and civilians died in the conflict. Argentina’s loses are thought to be as much as four times greater.
Jun 21: The birth of Prince William is announced.
Jun 22: Jim Mitchell of Fine Gael discloses that an override system on a telephone installed by Mr Haughey’s government had the capability to listen-in undetected to all telephone calls in Leinster House and Government Buildings.
Jun 25: Northern Ireland defeat hosts Spain 1-0 in the World Cup football finals.
Jul 9: Anthony Fagan breaks into Queen Elizabeth II’s bedroom in Buckingham Palace in the middle of the night.
Jul 11: Italy defeat West Germany to win the World Cup in Spain.
Jul 20: IRA bombs kill 11 soldiers and wound 59 people in two London parks.
Jul 22: Nurse Bridie Gargan is attacked in Phoenix Park. She dies four days later.
Jul 25: Donal Dunne is murdered near Edenderry.
Jul 28: A tap is placed on journalist Geraldine Kennedy’s telephone.
Jul 29: British prime minister Margaret Thatcher says “no commitment exists for Her Majesty’s government to consult Irish government on matters affecting Northern Ireland”.
Aug 13: Malcolm MacArthur is arrested at the home of attorney general Patrick Connolly for the murders of Bridie Gargan and Donal Dunne.
Aug 15: John O’Leary wins the Irish Open Golf Championship at Portmarnock.
Aug 16: Mr Haughey accepts the resignation of Patrick Connolly.
Sept 5: Kilkenny, captained by Brian Cody, defeat Cork to win the All-Ireland senior hurling championship by 3-18 to 1-13.
Sept 14: Princess Grace of Monaco dies in a car accident.
Sept 19: Kerry’s bid for five-in-a-row is foiled by Offaly in the All-Ireland football final.
Sept 22: The Escort car of the minister for justice crashes in Ballyduff, Co Kerry.
Sept 27: James McGovern is arrested by the RUC on his way to court to testify in Dowra, Co Cavan against Garda Thomas Nangle, a brother-in-law of minister for justice Seán Doherty.
Oct 1: Charlie McCreevy proposes a motion of no confidence in Mr Haughey’s leadership of Fianna Fáil.
Oct 6: Minister for trade, commerce, and tourism Des O’Malley and education minister Martin O’Donoghue resign from cabinet, but Mr Haughey still wins a confidence vote within the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party.
Oct 18: Bill Loughnane, Clare TD, dies.
Oct 19: Jim Gibbons, TD, suffers a heart attack.
John De Lorean is arrested and charged with possession of 59 pounds of cocaine in Los Angeles. He was later acquitted due to entrapment.
Oct 20: Assembly elections in the North.
Oct 21: Ray MacSharry meets Martin O’Donoghue and tapes their private conversation.
Nov 1: Dick Spring is elected leader of the Labour Party.
Nov 2: Former Labour Party leader Michael O’Leary joins Fine Gael.
Nov 4: Mr Haughey’s government loses a confidence motion 82-80 in the Dáil.
Government is presented with the Stardust Report.
Nov 10: Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, 75, dies. He had been party leader since 1964.
Nov 11: SDLP and Sinn Féin refuse to take seats at first sitting of Northern Assembly.
Nov 12: Yuri Andropov succeeds Leonid Brezhnev as Soviet leader.
Nov 16: The IRA assassinates UVF leader Lenny Murphy.
Nov 18: Hilton Edwards, co-founder of the Gate Theatre, dies.
Nov 24: General election. Fianna Fáil wins 72, Fine Gael 67, Labour 15 and others 5.
Dec 1: Grafton St, Dublin, is pedestrianised.
Dec 6: An INLA bomb kills 17 people at a disco in Ballykelly, Co Derry.
Dec 14: Garret FitzGerald replaces Mr Haughey as taoiseach.
Lech Walesa, leader of Solidarity, is released in Poland.
Dec 18: Disclosure of taps on telephones of journalists Bruce Arnold and Geraldine Kennedy.
Dec 19: Mr Haughey denies countenancing tapping telephones of journalists.
Dec 31: Martial law is suspended in Poland.
By Noel Baker
It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.
Newly released files show that, as violence raged in the North in 1982, growing tensions in Anglo-Irish relations continued to undermine attempts to ease the sense of crisis.
Personality clashes within the ruling Conservative Party in Britain had a role to play in developments in the North that year, while faltering relations between London and Dublin — not helped by the Falklands War — also contributed.
A letter from Irish ambassador in London, Eamon Kennedy, to the Department of Foreign Affairs in London, on Jun 14, 1982 sums it up. Writing about attending the annual trooping of the colour, Mr Kennedy recalls meeting British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who greeted him “without too much warmth“.
After the ceremony the two had another chat. “She then said that these were not the easiest times for Anglo-Irish relations and I recalled her remarkable phrase before entering No 10 in May 1979 when she said: ‘Where there is discord may we bring harmony.’ ‘Yes,’ she said, with some vehemence, ‘but it takes two to do it! I cannot do it on my own,’ and turned away to say farewell to other departing guests. I felt at this stage we ought to go too.”
Problems of extradition were discussed between foreign affairs minister Gerry Collins and NI secretary of state James Prior at a meeting on Mar 31, with Mr Collins summing up the mood of the Irish delegation when he said his hardest task was to convince people in Britain that the Irish Government was making honest and strenuous efforts to deal with the security situation.
He also said that Mr Prior’s predecessor, Roy Mason, had been a problem, his attitude and remarks causing “serious problems” that had a particularly demoralising effect on the gardaí. Instead, Mr Collins told the meeting the gardaí had been doing an excellent job, although he recognised that security forces in the North had an extra problem, “ie, that of being shot at”.
As for the extradition issue, Mr Collins said evidence was the key and simply passing people across the border was not the panacea. “The minister went on to refer to the fact that people who were known to be terrorists were walking the streets of Belfast and he mentioned the case of Gerry Adams. No action could be taken against them because they did not have the evidence.”
For his part, Mr Prior said he believed the problem of violence could not be solved by force of arms but needed a political solution, along the lines of his plan for rolling devolution based on an assembly, with further integration “the second best choice”.
Mr Prior’s proposals were not proving popular within his own party. A letter dated Mar 11, 1982 and sent from the Irish Embassy in London back to Dublin outlined a meeting between press officer Daithi O’Ceallaigh and Alastair Cooke of the Conservative Research Department, in which Mr Cooke said the cabinet meeting at which Mr Prior outlined his devolution proposals had been “a stormy one”.
“The instigator was the prime minister [Margaret Thatcher] and Cooke said it is widely known in Westminster that she offered little support to Mr Prior in his efforts and showed her displeasure quite clearly. Cooke traces her reaction to two causes.
“There is firstly the well-documented personal antagonism between the two strong personalities. The prime minister views Mr Prior as a wet and Heath hang-over whom she exiled to Northern Ireland, far from the central economic ministries where he had opposed her consistently. He is also seen as a potential threat to her leadership should he ever get a chance to mount a plausible attack on her position.”
Secondly, Mr Cooke told O’Ceallaigh that Thatcher was, at that point, of the view that the best policy to follow was “closer integration between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom”. Mr Cooke told the ambassador that this change in view was mostly down to the influence on Thatcher of backbencher MP Ian Gow.
Problems abounded in the North in 1982, including debate over the transfer of prisoners, the continuing fallout from the hunger strikes, conditions in prisons, and continuous violence, as well as concerns in the south over the use of plastic and rubber bullets.
By late 1981, diplomatic cables to Dublin from the embassy in London were conveying a sense in British government circles that the SDLP had been weakened by the hunger strikes but were still the “only political bulwark against the Provisionals“.
By Ed Carty
The Argentines were regarded by a senior Irish diplomat as “morbidly estranged from reality” and a people governed by a Mafia class, Irish state papers disclose.
In a withering dissection of the “Latin psyche”, the embassy in Buenos Aires sent a 17-page advisory to Dublin: A character assassination teed up with an assertion that the locals are psychologically dangerous.
“One might be guilty of far less than total charity, but not, I think, of straying very far from the essential truth, should one hazard the speculation that the seven deadly sins are cultivated in Buenos Aires with more flairfully self- indulgent ingenuity than perhaps anywhere else on God’s earth where Satan has sown a particular seed,” it said.
The cable, which was titled Understanding Argentina and dated Nov 24 1982, was sent to the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affair’s, Iveagh House, Dublin.
It was intended to be an overview of Argentine affairs following a year of turmoil and the country’s defeat over the Falklands.
Thirty years later, it reads like an offensive catalogue of stereotypes. The author is not clearly named. The ambassador in Buenos Aires from 1981 to 1989 was Patrick Walsh.
On the assessment of the “Argentine psychology”, originally suggested by Trinidadian-British writer VS Naipaul, Iveagh House was told it was “a mercilessly exact penetrating observation”.
The cable states: “As a nation — if they are a nation, and that is part of the pathology — they are morbidly estranged from reality. To attempt an exhaustive catalogue of the exotic zoology of serious emotional disorders from which the Argentines collectively suffer would require ample recourse to the early Viennese texts.
“Behavioural aberrations of which they display advanced and frequently simultaneous symptoms include: Paranoia, narcissism, aggression, delusions inter alia of grandeur, infantilism, hysteria, exhibitionism, extreme inferiority/superiority com-plexes, extravagant self-fantasies, selective amnesia, habitual projection of internal failures on to external agents.
“Among the few psychological disorders from which the Argentines as a people remain resolutely immune, one may number scrupulosity and compulsive guilt.”
On the state itself, the writer said there was some substance to the idea that Argentina’s moral shortcomings span from the huge influx of immigrants from southern Italy.
“The mores of Naples and Palermo have certainly infected Argentina,” the diplomat wrote.
But here lies the twist, the papers reveal: The underground, criminal counter-culture of the Mafia was not present in Argentina at the time.
“There is no role in Buenos Aires for such heterodox criminality. Here the Mafia is the official culture, the conventional society, the quintessential state,” the cable read.
“In this country, the gangsters are not underground figures, outlaw characters; they are not consigned beyond the flat Pale of the pampas they are urbanely, clubably, indistinguishably fite fuaite with the soigne Buenosairean establishment.
“Here the crooks have merged with the conquistadors; the Capones have married the Cabot- Lodges.”
But it was not all stereotypes and damning dispatch. Agreeing with “a well-worn but apposite definition”, the cable described the average Argentine as: “An Italian who speaks Spanish, dresses like a (Rex Harrison, Savile Row) Englishman, and wishes he was living in the United States.”
They were also considered creative and highly cultured individuals with an innate gentleness and little predisposition to violent crime.
“Or, less flatteringly, it could be that fraud and cheating and rip-offs of all kinds are so much an integral part of life here from top to bottom — as they are — that robbery with violence is rendered redundant by robbery with sleight of hand or stroke of a pen,” the cable read.
By Noel Baker
The government hesitated from publicly questioning the convictions of Gerry Conlon and others for IRA bombs in Britain, even though, as far back as 1980, there was a strong suspicion within government that they had been wrongfully convicted.
A memo to taoiseach Charles Haughey on Sept 15, 1982, from Dr Martin Mansergh, then a special adviser on Northern Ireland Affairs, stated: “There appears to be a significant possibility that there was a miscarriage of justice” in the conviction of Mr Conlon and others for the Guildford pub bombing of Oct 1974.
The same memo, in advance of a reply to representatives of Mr Conlon, said the Irish embassy in London was “examining whether there is any basis on which they could ask for this and certain related cases to be reopened, but I am not informing [Mr Conlon’s representative, Pat] Canavan of this.”
Members of Mr Conlon’s family, particularly his mother Sarah, had raised the issue of the convictions in letters to senior government figures such as Haughey and Brian Lenihan. She also voiced concerns over her son’s safety and a desire that he be transferred to a prison in the North.
A letter marked Sept 4 to Frank Murray in the Department of the Taoiseach advises that the government should stress that it is not in a position to help Mrs Conlon financially “since there is no official source from which such payments could be made”, but that the government would make a further approach to the British on the matter of a request for a transfer to a prison in the North.
The letter, from Margaret Hennessy in the Department of Foreign Affairs, also states: “For your information, as you are no doubt aware, there is a large question mark over the guilt of Conlon and other prisoners convicted at the time of the Guildford, Woolich, and Birmingham bombings.
“We recently asked the London embassy to carry out a review of the relevant cases with a view to considering what action, if any, might be open to the government in seeking vis-à-vis the British home office to have these cases re-examined. As you will appreciate, however, this is an extremely difficult area and one in which we would be very slow to step.”
The letter continues that it would be difficult for the Dublin government to question decisions handed down in British courts as it might open itself to criticism from London of judicial decisions here.
“We continue however to monitor the situation and if any significant new evidence were to emerge in these cases we would be prepared to add our weight towards ensuring that such evidence was given proper consideration by the British authorities,” the letter read.
The previous month, Aug 1982, Haughey had written to Independent TD Tony Gregory on the issue of prisoner transfer. “I can assure you the government will continue to raise the issue of transfer requests with [the British] from a humanitarian viewpoint, both in general terms and in relation to individual cases brought to our attention,” said Mr Haughey
Despite an “arm’s-length” approach to the case of those wrongfully convicted for the Guildford bombings, efforts continued behind the scenes.
In a file from 1980, a senior official in the Department of Foreign Affairs suggests the Irish embassy in London should meet with John Yallop, the man who developed the thin layer chromotography tests that helped convict Mr Conlon, but who at the trial appeared for the defence and attacked the use of the tests by the prosecution as “unscientific and incompetent”.
Later that year, in a cable to the Department of Foreign Affairs from the embassy in London, the case of Guiseppe Conlon and others were listed as “cases where there is substantial room for doubt, on the limited evidence available to us, of the guilt of the accused”.
Mrs Conlon also raised the issue of an “F” mark on her son’s prison, apparently labelling him a suicide risk. The mark was first noticed on Aug 13, 1981. By November the Irish embassy in London received reassurances that the “F” did not mean authorities considered Conlon a suicide risk.
Mr Conlon’s mother had written to TD Neil Blaney over the issue: “I fear now for my son’s life lest another prisoner or maybe a warden should murder him, it could then be classed as ‘suicide’.”
By Michael McHugh
The British government wanted to brainwash hunger strikers to abandon their protest while they lay ill in hospital, archives from 1982 revealed.
Pressure was to be put on inmates to stop fasting before their conditionsbecame critical. An assistant governor who visited the infirmary at the Mazeprison regularly was put forward as a candidate for the risky operation,Northern Ireland Office documents showed.
Ten men, including Bobby Sands, died in their 1981 campaign to secure politicalstatus for republican prisoners. Seven were members of the IRA, three from theIrish National Liberation Army.
One NIO official asked: “Is there any possibility of using all the resourcesavailable to us to identify the best candidate for capitulation and then go tosome lengths to organise pressure on them over the next number of weeks before his condition becomes critical?”
The operation was considered but discarded by senior government officialsduring the strikes, which lasted for 217 days and sparked international protestand mounting sectarian violence on the North’s streets.
A hospital officer or assistant governor was to befriend the prisoners andcultivate relations. Officials said engineering a capitulation would be of greatvalue because the IRA’s propaganda would be thrown into disarray.
Officials said there would be dangers if an effort against a single prisonerbecame public knowledge but that would be defensible if it could be shown tohave prevented a prisoner’s pointless death.
Another civil servant expressed scepticism about whether an inmate could bepersuaded to come off the strike and said it would be out of the question toinvolve doctors or other hospital staff.
“The only obvious candidate for the brainwashing would be assistant governorMcCartney who visits the hospital regularly in the normal course of events,” hesaid.
Archives also showed the British government was prepared to offer republican hunger strikers the freedom to wear their own clothes if they ended their fast, it wasrevealed.
In spite of British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s uncompromising rhetoric on not giving in to the republican protest at the Maze high-security prison, a briefing paper clarifying the government’s 1981 position was uncovered in the archives.
While the administration’s public stance at the time was defiance of terrorist demands and a refusal to negotiate, behind the scenes there was more flexibility.
“If the hunger strikes ended, the government would be prepared to consideradjustments to the prison regime but the government would need strong evidencethat the strike had ended before it could contemplate any adjustments,” the NIOdocument said.
“The adjustments involved would include freedom for the prisoners to wear their own clothing and perhaps other moves.”
Freedom to wear their own clothes was one of the five demands made by the hunger strikers as a condition for ending their protest and was eventually granted when the action ended in Oct 1981 after the wife of another striker, Pat McGeown, agreed to him receiving medical attention.
By Michael McHugh
The IRA’s hunger strikes could have spread to English jails, it has been revealed.
A high-profile prisoner in Leicester Prison asked Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams to serve as his link to the IRA’s ruling army council in an effort to break the deadlock with the British authorities.
Brian Keenan went on to play a key role in the Northern Ireland peace process.
Mr Keenan wrote in 1981 to his “old comrade” Mr Adams, outlining his thoughts on ending the hunger strikes.
He said his proposal was “a possible basis for the solution of the relevant crisis in the H-blocks and also a long-term solution to the potential danger of a hunger strike amongst republican prisoners in English prisons”.
“That potential hunger strike would be motivated by a desire for repatriation to Northern Ireland prisons and I have reason to believe that it would be imminent, pending any resolution of the H-blocks crisis,” wrote Mr Keenan.
“I say only that I am surprised a hunger strike has not started already and suppose that the majority of republican prisoners in England do not wish to distract from the H-block crisis.”
Mr Keenan received an 18-year prison sentence in 1980 for conspiring to cause explosions, but went on to play a key role in the peace process. He was in the IRA’s army council and served as that organisation’s delegate to the disarmament body which oversaw the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons.
His 1981 proposal was for a wing of a cell block at the Maze to be occupied by a pilot group of republican prisoners — possibly life sentenced inmates transferred from Britain — which he said could allow a fresh attempt to arrive at an accommodation on key hunger strike issues of prison work and rights of free association.
Mr Keenan wrote to Mr Adams pledging fealty to the IRA leadership but said he felt there was not enough goodwill between existing protagonists at the Maze.
His letter was sent by the prison authorities and was released along with other papers from the archive.
“While realising I may be infringing on army jurisdiction, I felt it was my duty to make some effort,” he wrote to Mr Adams.
A senior Northern Ireland Office official said: “Keenan’s comments about the general question of republican and loyalist paramilitary prisoners in Great Britain are another reminder that this issue is simmering away and may erupt at some time.”
By Michael McHugh
Britain’s Conservative government rejected a proposal from an influential backbencher to put paramilitary inmates on a prison ship during the height of the hunger strikes and dispose of their bodies at sea if they died onboard, the official records revealed.
The suggestion was made by former home secretary David Waddington before he joined the cabinet.
He said a vessel fitted with cells could be made very secure and naval recruits may gain practical training.
“The boat could cruise for long periods of time, calling at various ports around Britain for supplies and a change of staff, and could anchor for long periods offshore,” he said.
“Any of the terrorists who passed away could be buried at sea, removing the publicity which these people appear to seek.”
Mr Waddington, now known as Baron Waddington and now aged 83, was an MP for Clitheroe in Lancashire during the hunger strikes. He served in the House of Commons from 1968 to 1990 and was then made a life peer. He rose to home secretary in 1989, shortly before his elevation to the Lords.
His suggestion was rejected by Northern Ireland Office prisons minister Michael Alison, the former Conservative MP for Selby, who said the ship would cost more to run, need more staff, and be less secure.
He observed that ships wear out quickly and require regular dry docking and major maintenance. Alternative accommodation would have to be provided for prisoners while the floating jail was in dry dock.
“The major objection to the proposal must be that an individual sentenced to a period of imprisonment remains a human being with certain statutory rights and privileges,” said Mr Alison.
Mr Alison concluded that the measure could only be justified as a temporary expedient in an emergency and was not a long-term solution.
The deaths of the hunger strikers were marked by street protests in the North and widespread condemnation from abroad.
The banging of bin lids and the shrill sounds of whistles announced leading hunger striker Bobby Sands’ death on the streets of West Belfast in May 1981. The member of parliament for Fermanagh/South Tyrone’s funeral was attended by a huge crowd, and the political opportunity of his death was capitalised upon by republicans to create a political movement.
Lords peer Baron Hylton suggested requiring those who died to be buried in prison with only a clergyman and a limited number of close relatives present. Mr Alison also rejected that proposal.
“I have no doubt that we would be pilloried as a stony-hearted government who had not only failed to prevent a man from starving himself to death but had then coldly refused to release his body to his nearest and dearest outside,” said Mr Alison.
The NIO was also asked to consider sending prisoners to Britain. A senior official said that was impractical because of pressure on accommodation there, the absence of legislation, the question of access for relatives, and European human rights obligations.
An NIO assessment of the legacy of the hunger strikes made sober reading for UK officials.
The IRA hunger strikes were the largest attack on prison policy facing the UK, a senior NIO official revealed, with 80% of prisoners opposing the authorities.
By Noel Baker
The Department of the Taoiseach criticised colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs after the government blundered over its failure to send a message of congratulation to the British royal family on the birth of Prince William.
Áras an Uachtaráin had originally issued a statement following the royal birth in which it said: “Family events not involving the head of State are not normally the subject of messages from our head of State.”
At the time, Anglo-Irish relations were strained due to the Falklands crisis and British anger at the stance of the government, as well as continuing problems in the North.
The decision not to issue a message of congratulation following the birth of Prince William to Prince Charles and Lady Diana prompted a storm of media coverage, and a flurry of internal communiqués.
By Jun 22, the day after William was born and with media coverage focussing on the non- issuing of a message, a memo in the Department of the Taoiseach stated: “Contrary to the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the president should be advised to send a message of congratulations to Queen Elizabeth II on the birth of her grandson — it might be no harm to point out to the Department of Foreign Affairs that they were in error when they said that their files suggest that a message should not be sent.”
In fact, the memo outlined two precedents for the sending of such messages: Nov 15, 1948, when President Seán O’Kelly sent congratulations to King George VI on the birth of Prince Charles, and on Aug 16, 1950, when President O’Kelly sent a similar message to King George on the birth of his granddaughter, Princess Anne.
A message was ultimately sent, resulting in embarrassment for the government. On Jun 24, in a responding message to the Department of the Taoiseach, it emerged that the assistant secretary in the Department of the Taoiseach, Richard Stokes, had pointed out the precedents for sending messages of congratulations but had been told by the Department of Foreign Affairs: “They wouldn’t go back as far as 1948 or 1950 for a precedent.
“As you know, the failure of the Department of Foreign Affairs to advert to those precedents resulted in most undesirable publicity with banner headlines in at least one newspaper accusing the president of having ‘snubbed’ the royal baby and later of having ‘made a U-turn’ when, following independent advice to the taoiseach from this department, the government agreed that the president should be advised to send a message.”
By Michael McHugh
Former taoiseach Charles Haughey’s attempts to put pressure on the British government during the Falklands War backfired and threatened relations between the two countries at the highest level, Northern Ireland Office files from 1982 claimed.
Ministerial meetings were shunned after the Irish government sought a meeting of the UN Security Council to call for a ceasefire following Britain’s sinking of the Argentine ship the General Belgrano.
It is 30 years since the dictatorship invaded the British-ruled archipelago in the South Atlantic.
An NIO memo from the time said: “The Falklands crisis had given Mr Haughey the opportunity to seek to be a world statesman (though it was widely recognised that the attempt had rebounded to his disadvantage) and to apply pressure on the British government.”
In response, bilateral meetings of ministers were discouraged by the British government and attempts to introduce closer intergovernmental relations over the North, then polarised following the hunger strikes and intensified levels of violence, were delayed, NIO documents said.
A summary in Jun 1982 said: “The Republic’s unhelpful role in the Falklandscrisis and public awareness of it means attempts to develop the relationship (between the two countries) just now would be heavily criticised.”
A former leading diplomat has staunchly defended Ireland’s approach to dealing with the Falklands.
Noel Dorr, Ireland’s ambassador to the UN at the time and subsequently head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said efforts had been made to try to avert war.
An Irish government statement, issued in May 1982, sought an immediate meeting of the UN Security Council, of which Ireland was a temporary member, to prepare a new resolution for immediate cessation of hostilities.
The statement failed to mention another British-sponsored resolution, which called for the withdrawal of Argentine forces and came in the middle of negotiations and the day before both warring sides were to respond to proposals from the UN secretary general. Ultimately, the phrase “immediate meeting” was replaced with “immediately seeking a meeting”.
According to another NIO file, Northern secretary James Prior discussed Irish actions on the Falklands with the UK ambassador to Ireland, Leonard Figg, in Jun 1982.
The note said Mr Haughey showed “fundamental inconsistencies” in attemptingto seek developments on the North while simultaneously “souring” Anglo-Irish relations by his dealings on the Falklands and other matters.
There were also misunderstandings over the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council initiative, a precursor to the British/Irish Intergovernmental Council.
It was established by former taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald in an effort toimprove British-Irish relations but the NIO described contradictions between thetwo governments’ interpretations, the UK arguing that the council was onlyincidentally concerned with the North, while Ireland believed it entitled southern officials to play a role in the North’s future.
“The contradictions were masked because Dr Fitzgerald acknowledged the needfor continuity in the Republic, both in attitudes generally and in the constitution. He avoided aspects of the AIIC which would disturb the unionists,” the archived document said.
“With Mr Haughey’s return to power, he seems to have set out to upset thebalance.”
It noted that the former Fianna Fáil leader claimed parts of the AIIC werelikely to promote negotiations leading to Irish unity.
“He speaks of this in terms which do not necessarily accept the need for this to be achieved with the consent of the majority of people in Northern Ireland,” the record stated.
The NIO said Mr Haughey’s references to the AIIC strengthened unionist fearsthat it could be a device leading to a united Ireland, investing Anglo-Irish meetings with political overtones and dangers for unionists while increasing the SDLP’s tendency to look south rather than to the nascent assembly at Stormont.
“This makes it very difficult for Her Majesty’s government to develop the AIIC as quickly or as fully as it might otherwise have done. Irish actions during the Falklands crisis have compounded the difficulties which Mr Haughey’s attitude to the AIIC had placed in the way of continuing the normal round of ministerialmeetings,” the report said.
It added that, for that moment, bilateral meetings were avoided unless they had developed from business activity already under way which had demonstrablepractical benefits.
“Efforts are being made to get across the fact that the obstacles to the development of the AIIC have all come from the Irish side.”
By Ed Carty
A garda superintendent exercised the country’s top legal minds seeking advice on how to stop publicans showing pornography, state papers from 1982 reveal.
Superintendent T Leahy, based in Co Clare, said there was intelligence of at least one bar in the Ennistymon area offering explicit movie shows.
No suspect publican or pub was named in the letters and no description given of the films.
But with his moral compass navigating all the way to attorney general Patrick Connolly — later to resign over the Malcolm MacArthur affair — the superintendent was determined to enforce decency.
He wrote to the state solicitor in Co Clare concerned there was no law in the land to shut down the porn enterprise.
“I can find nothing in law to provide for this situation,” the superintendent said.
“The Censorship of Films Act 1923 refers to pictures exhibited by means of a cinematograph or similar apparatus which would not appear to include video showing.”
The debate on laws to tackle public viewings of pornography ran from May to Aug 1982.
Michael A Buckley, deputy assistant chief state solicitor, said he had been asked by the director of public prosecutions Eamonn Barnes whether prosecutions should be brought, provided there is evidence.
Mr Buckley advised that the only hope of a successful conviction of a publican showing pornography was under censorship laws.
He also said that local gardaí should object to a liquor licence being renewed if a prosecution was successful.
Despite all the suspicions about a pornography club, and after looking into the reports from Co Clare, Mr Buckley later wrote to the DPP as frustrations began to mount that the advice was sought in the first place.
“The gardaí do not appear to have positive evidence that these films are in fact being shown in licensed premises,” Mr Buckley said.
“Bettling [sic], performing children, drunkenness, lotteries, and having prostitutes on licensed premises are all prohibited but, as far as I can ascertain, the showing of films does not appear to be an offence.
“It might be possible to initiate a prosecution on grounds that the showing of these films tends to cause a lowering of public morals in the area.
“Realisticly [sic], however, this charge would not succeed.”
Mr Buckley agreed that suspect publicans should be targeted under censorship laws as the porn films would not have been certified by the official censor.
The DPP’s office wrote: “There is no evidence before me indicating the nature of the ‘pornographic’ films, whether the showing is alleged to have occurred one or more times, the source or extent of the information on same or whether it is considered there is sufficient evidence to establish same as a matter of probability.”
By Noel Baker
“Arise and follow Charlie.”
That’s what legions of Haughey supporters did in 1982, with letters of congratulations sent to him capturing much of the partisan nature of Irish life at that time.
The letters, released by the National Archives in the new year, show that as well as congratulating Haughey on winning the first of the two general elections held in 1982, his supporters were also exercised by abortion, divorce, and other issues they wanted Fianna Fáil to address when in office.
The abortion issue was never far from the pens of many Haughey supporters.
One woman, Moira Keogh, living in Mullingar in Co Meath, wrote in her letter of Sept 15, 1982: “I have joined the SPUC [Society for the Protection of Unborn Children] because I fear that we may someday be faced with the same murder of the innocents that’s going on in England at the present time. What a shame for us if we allow this to happen here. I know that you will do your best to put through the Pro Life Amendment.”
Irene Rock from Cabra in Dublin wrote to Mr Haughey in August and also congratulated him on his pro-life stance, adding: “I would like to end by reminding you that the public are not as gullible as certain people would like to believe. I think it is quite obvious that there’s a very real campaign underfoot to ‘get rid of you’.”
Alice Keaton of Kimmage in Dublin thanked Mr Haughey for “all you are doing with regard to the Pro-Life Amendment to the Constitution and also for seeking a non-divorce solution to marital problems”.
A Mrs K Sinnott of Hollyhill in Cork City hit out at the “cop-outs” and said: “I know the curse divorce, abortion, and contraception are, nationally and personally.”
“You will turn me into a Fianna Fáil voter yet. In fact you gained my vote during the TV debate when you opposed divorce and increased contraception.”
On Aug 18, 1982, Christy Healy of Drimnagh in Dublin wrote to Mr Haughey and said — possibly in relation to the unfolding Gubu saga — “I am very sorry about the way things have turned out for you”. He enclosed a poem entitled Don’t Quit and wrote a PS: “Please excuse grease marks.”
Elsewhere, matters were more light-hearted. John Allen Sipes, an American living in Maryland, wrote to Mr Haughey telling him of his visit to Ireland, and even included a photograph of him standing in front of a phone box.
Mary French, writing from south London, said: “I like a bit of sin here and there and I don’t like do-gooders at all or criticism of any kind and that’s why you are so nice.”
Dr K Kumar, a homeopathist from Bareilly in India, also wrote to Mr Haughey, or ‘Charls J. Huey’ as it appears in the typed letter and said he hoped the new taoiseach “will also keep peace in the country or world”.
In Mar 1982, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of St Columbanus wrote to Mr Haughey urging him to “uphold the traditional Christian principles of our people”, while the same year, Sr Mary Olivia Plunkett, writing from the Convent of Mercy, Mount St Michael in Rosscarbery, said the Christian ethic had made its social impact in Ireland and requested the taoiseach’s signature.
In a poignant letter from a Noreen O’Driscoll from Gurranabraher in Cork City, she tells Mr Haughey how her mother died some weeks previously and how the letter writer was turning 18 shortly and regularly attended Cork Polio.
“My sister is taking me out when she is going out. My father will not let me go out by myself. People make fun of me. I always keep your letters. You and Jack Lynch are my best friends.”
By Noel Baker
Dining bills for the taoiseach often exceeded limits set by the Department of Finance, whose officials complained about footing the expense on dwindling resources.
Documents show that, in 1982, regular messages were sent between departments seeking “to convey sanction for expenditure in excess of the delegated limits”.
Many of the dining events were lunches and some were hosted by disgraced former spin doctor Frank Dunlop.
One letter from the department to the secretary of the Department of the Taoiseach in Nov 1982 shows that, on Sept 5 that year, Charles Haughey hosted a lunch which cost £322.44 — £142.22 in excess of the limit.
Not long beforehand, Mr Haughey had taken to the airwaves imploring people to tighten their belts.
Lunches on Sept 22, 28, 29, and 30 of 1982 resulted in a bill £340.52 in excess of the limit.
From Jun 15, 1981, to Oct 21 the following year, the amount paid over to John D Carroll Catering — the firm which handled the provision of food and drink to the taoiseach’s office — stood at £8,404.95.
According to a Central Bank estimate garnered by the Irish Examiner, that is €27,232.03 in today’s money.
However, despite Mr Haughey’s famed largesse while in office, the largest single payment in that time was for £865.64, while Garret FitzGerald was taoiseach.
During 1982, lunches were often hosted by the secretary in the taoiseach’s department, but the problems faced in footing the bills are all too evident.
One note from Sept 17, 1982, from the Department of Finance to a member of Mr Haughey’s staff asked: “May we have a note in future of luncheons hosted by the taoiseach, in advance? Our finances are so tight that we must know what invoices to expect.”
Another letter from the Department of Finance to Mr Haughey’s secretary, from Jun 1982, stressed: “It is noted that expenditure to date on official entertainment is in excess of £10,000 out of a provision of £15,000 for the year. I am, therefore, to remind you that total expenditure in 1982 must be kept within the figure provided in the estimates.”
Just a few months before, the taoiseach’s security man and driver were among those dining at a cabinet lunch alongside the attorney general and 13 ministers at a cost of £401.20.
An internal note from Mar 22 shows Mr Haughey, not long after winning the general election, had visited the dining room “to view possible improvements”.
As a result, a member of his staff had called to say “that the dining room/ kitchen facilities were for the exclusive use of the taoiseach. They are not to be used for the department generally and are not to be used for the preparation of conferences, etc.
“This instruction is also to apply to the contents of the kitchen, ie, tea service, cutlery, etc.”
By Ryle Dwyer
The year 1982, the time primarily covered in the state papers just released, was the centenary of the birth of Éamon de Valera, and there are two files relating to it among the documents released by the Taoiseach’s office.
Those are number 940 and 941, but there is one file with 1982 newspaper clippings relating to the death of Michael Collins, and it is file, number 1. Therein, obviously, lies a story.
Fine Gael was in power at the beginning of 1982 and Garret FitzGerald was taoiseach. There is internal evidence in the file that the officials felt the taoiseach would be interested. His curiosity in the shooting of Collins was probably sparked by more than party affiliation.
Capt Seán Feehan’s book, The Shooting of Michael Collins, had sparked considerable controversy by suggesting that Major General Emmet Dalton was the one who fired the shot that killed Collins.
Feehan, a former intelligence officer in the Irish Army and the founder of Mercier Press, suspected that Dalton was actually working for British Intelligence at the time.
Mercier Press were about to publish two books I had written in conjunction with the de Valera centennial when the Irish Press asked me to review Feehan’s book. Informing him that I would be highly critical, I asked if he would prefer I decline to review his book.
He asked that I write the review and said that he would not take offence at any criticism but I should not take offence at any reply that he might make. So we took lumps out of each other. Afterwards he showed me the evidence on which he based his conclusions.
The source for his allegation against Dalton was a letter from a retired civil servant who recalled that he was walking around Leinster Lawn with Desmond FitzGerald, the outgoing minister for defence, on the day that Fianna Fáil came to power in 1932. FitzGerald told him then that Dalton was the one who shot Collins. There was no suggestion whether this was deliberate or an accident.
Dalton had served in the British Army in the First World War and attained the rank of major before returning home to join the IRA in the fight for Irish freedom.
He later served with MI6 during the Second World War, but nobody has ever produced any evidence to suggest that he assisted the British during the War of Independence.
On might presume that — as taoiseach at the beginning of 1982 — Desmond FitzGerald’s son Garret, had a particular interest in the Feehan book. Considerable controversy surrounded Feehan’s suggestion that a junta led by WT Cosgrave had ousted Collins as chairman of the Provisional Government on Jul 12, 1922.
The cabinet records for that day indicate that “Collins announced that he had arranged to take up duty as commander-in-chief of the Army and would not be able to act in his ministerial capacity until further notice”. He was not ousted and did not actually resign but decided to step aside in order to devote his full attention to ending the Civil War.
Records in the taoiseach’s office indicated that he still held ministerial portfolios. “Our appointments book indicates that at the time of his death (22/8/1922) Mr Collins was minister for finance, Dáil Éireann, and chairman and M/Finance in the Provisional Government,” one official noted.
By Ed Carty
US intelligence chiefs warned the government that Muammar Gaddafi was plotting to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, State papers from 1981 and 1982 have revealed.
In a confidential briefing on Dec 10, 1981 as Ireland pursued lucrative trade deals with the dictator, officials from the embassy in Dublin and US state department revealed the threat.
A subsequent note for Department of Foreign Affairs chiefs, including theambassador to Rome, said US agents identified and confirmed 17 terrorist training camps in Libya, including one named “17th April” for preparing international operations.
The report said that about 5,000 people were put through training in the last year, and about 15,000 in the last decade.
“The US has evidence that Gaddafi is now planning to use some of thesepersonnel for attacks on Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the US (in thelast mentioned, against President Reagan himself)”, the briefing stated.
Reagan wrote in his memoirs about being warned of the Libya threat.
Tensions between the countries were severely strained at the time with theGaddafi plot surfacing after Reagan ordered two Libyan warplanes shot down overthe Mediterranean in Aug 1980.
The intelligence was recorded as embassy staff relayed to the government theextent of Gaddafi’s sponsorship of terrorism in Africa and further afield. It went on to say that US diplomatic personnel were at risk.
“The mastermind was Ali Hijasi in Libyan intelligence and the attack was to besupervised by a ‘guard’ (in fact working for Libyan intelligence) at the LibyanPeople’s Bureau in Rome,” the note said.
“There is reason to believe that the US embassies in Rome, Beirut, Tunis, andAthens have been ‘cased’ by the Libyans and there is still a high level of concern about these offices.”
The record of the assassination threat to Reagan was itself very matter of fact. No other information was recorded about the suspected assassination plot, nor does the note mention the reaction of the Irish diplomats.
The meeting was called by US authorities to provide a briefing on their position on Libya as Ireland continued to build trade links with Gaddafi’s regime.
The Americans did not raise the question of any restrictions on Irish tradewith Libya.
By Noel Baker
The cult of Gubu continues. The State papers for 1982 contain barely a reference to the Malcolm MacArthur case from that year, despite the involvement of a former Attorney General in one of the most infamous crimes in modern Ireland.
Former taoiseach Charlie Haughey described the events of summer 1982 as “a bizarre happening, an unprecedented situation, a grotesque situation, an almost unbelievable mischance”, leading Conor Cruise O’Brien to coin the Gubu acronym. But, remarkably, there is barely a trace of coverage of those events in the State papers.
It means the story is that there is no story, with a spokesman for the Government Information Service saying matters relating to the MacArthur case may never have officially been referred to Government — or that any files may not have been released because some aspect of the case may still be considered “live”.
On Jul 22, 1982, Malcolm MacArthur, once part of Dublin’s social scene, bludgeoned 27-year-old nurse Bridie Gargan to death in the back of her car in the Phoenix Park. Gardaí believe that, some days later, he shot Offaly farmer Dónal Dunne with his own shotgun.
The murders sparked a national manhunt and events took a dramatic turn when MacArthur was eventually tracked down to a property owned by Attorney General Patrick Connolly. The State ultimately entered a nolle prosequi in the Dunne case and MacArthur was given a life sentence for the murder of Bridie Gargan.
In recent years, he has been granted short periods of temporary release and last September he was released on licence from Shelton Abbey prison. It effectively means he is still a prisoner, but he must only sign on once a month at a prison.
State papers are released under the National Archives Act 1986 and there was surprise that the case is barely mentioned in the files released to the media. All files will be available to the public from Jan 2.
The GIS spokesman said that one possibility was that the case was dealt with by gardaí and the courts system and that it was never officially referred to within government, or referred to the government.
Some of the few references to the case appear in letters of congratulations sent to Charlie Haughey on entering government following the first of two general elections in 1982.
One letter sent from a resident of Castle Rd in Cork begins: “Just a short line to congratulate you on your handling of the recent controversy regarding the former Attorney General. I feel you handled the affair with great dexterity and sensitivity.”
Another letter, from a Hugh Byrne holidaying on the Aran Islands, states: “Congrats on your performance in the ‘Connolly Affair’. This unfortunate, unusual, and never-to-be-repeated, one-in-a-million chance episode would have sunk lesser men.”
Haughey lost the second general election of 1982.