State Archives: Merrion St sale ‘could facilitate sniper attack’

An interdepartmental group on national security expressed concern at the Government’s decision in 1989 to sell a terrace of Georgian houses in Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2, because of the potential for snipers to access them to target politicians in Government Buildings on the other side of the road.

State Archives: Merrion St sale ‘could facilitate sniper attack’

An interdepartmental group on national security expressed concern at the Government’s decision in 1989 to sell a terrace of Georgian houses in Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2, because of the potential for snipers to access them to target politicians in Government Buildings on the other side of the road.

State records show that gardaí and the Department of Justice also voiced concern about the personal security of the taoiseach, Charles Haughey, the attorney general, John Murray, and visiting VIPs in the event of the sale going ahead.

They also pointed out that modern technology could allow people using sophisticated equipment to eavesdrop on phone conversations in Government Buildings from a distance.

One senior garda, Supt John Courtney, said there was “the possibility of an outrage” through a sniper gaining access to a building “with an easy getaway”.

The sales of the 13 properties was expected to fetch up to IR£12m, although it had a reserve of IR£3m.

The Department of Justice expressed concern that the buildings offered “ideal vantage points for sniper fire” as well as a multiplicity of exits and escape routes “which would favour an easy retreat after any possible attack”.

Gardaí acknowledged that it would be difficult to make a case for retaining the buildings in State ownership on security grounds, but said the proposed sale should be by tender so they would have advance notice of intending purchasers.

They also suggested a condition of the sale would be to allow the State prevent it being resold to individuals or organisations that were likely to embarrass the Government or pose a security risk.

It was agreed that the OPW would indicate to any potential purchaser that there was a security dimension to the occupancy of the houses and that Garda access should be facilitated as and when required.

Mr Haughey was advised by the Government secretary, Pádraig Ó hUiginn in July 1989 that there would be “a big public outcry” if the Government sold the buildings without attaching any conditions relating to their conservation, especially as one of them was the former home of the Duke of Wellington.

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