Paisley wanted ‘IRA nests’ targeted

There were very real fears within government in 1982 that loyalists could launch a bombing campaign south of the border on the back of “inflammatory” comments by Ian Paisley.

Martin Mansergh, then a special adviser to taoiseach Charlie Haughey on the North, said the government should consider contacting the British government over comments in which Paisley had suggested the British government should target what he called “IRA nests” in the Republic.

In a communiqué to the taoiseach on Jul 13, Mansergh wrote: “I consider that there is some serious danger that under the influence of the Falklands and the Lebanon, where strong arm military methods appear to produce quick clearcut political solutions, Loyalist paramilitaries might decide to renew attacks on the South.

“While it is true that the UDA/UVF have learnt to be cautious of Paisley, they may have independently reached the conclusion that violence pays.”

Paisley’s comments at the time included a reference to the Israeli/Lebanon situation and said if “Ulster” was ruled by the Israelis, there would have been raids “as far south as Cork”.

Mr Mansergh noted that Paisley had phrased himself so as “to stay on the ‘windy side’ of the law” but that he had also named particular towns such as Buncrana, Bundoran, Clones, and Drogheda as “IRA watering holes” and as places that should be “cleaned out”.

“It would be for consideration as to whether representations should be made to the British government about the remarks as an ‘incitement to violence’ and whether any special security precautions need to be taken over the summer.”

Mansergh held numerous meetings with people connected with the situation there, among them David Trimble, whom he found to be “fairly obnoxious”.

Recounting the details of one meeting Mansergh wrote: “Apart from expressing satisfaction at the government’s defeat, he said that he despised Irish Republicans... He also made absurd claims about the North being a prosperous and successful liberal democracy, and that nationalists had only themselves to blame for their ghetto situation.”

At a meeting on Oct 12, 1982, Mansergh spoke with South African journalist Donald Woods, who had exposed the police killing of activist Steve Biko in South Africa in 1977.

His Lincoln Trust organisation was seeking international sponsorship, including from Ireland, and a £5,000 donation. Mansergh said: “I think Mr Woods’ proposal should be very seriously considered”.

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