How we use Cookies

National Archives Release: What The Documents Reveal

State papers are released today into the National Archives under the 30-year rule

Queen Elizabeth II used the wrong name for the Republic of Ireland when writing to President Patrick Hillery.

Queen used wrong name for Republic

The Queen used the wrong name for the Republic of Ireland when writing to President Patrick Hillery.

In extravagantly worded letters to President Hillery in 1983, the British royal marked the changing of the ambassadorial guard in Dublin.

In the note personally signed by the Queen, the royal confirmed the departure of Sir Leonard Clifford William Figg and in a follow-up note his replacement is confirmed as Alan Clowes-Goodison.

But Pat O'Sullivan, government secretariat in 1983 and adviser to Garrett FitzGerald on matters relating to the President, spotted a misnomer and asked for views of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Despite the courtly language and tone of the diplomatic letters to President Hillery, the Queen had used "Irish Republic" rather than Republic of Ireland.

'Soviet threat' tactic used on Bush

The Government tried to get George Bush more involved in tackling the Troubles by warning that the USSR would exploit growing IRA support.

Ahead of a one day visit to Dublin in 1983, officials said the Taoiseach should use the Soviet threat as a way of getting support from the then US Vice-President.

The advice was offered amid planning for the Fourth of July arrival but White House aides were less preoccupied with the Northern Ireland question and more on arrangements for a "spontaneous meet-the-people" stop for Mr Bush in a pub.

But seeing an opportunity to get Washington on board with the political situation, advisors to Garrett FitzGerald and Minister for Foreign Affairs Peter Barry urged them to use the growing terror threat and closeted support for the Provos to drum up interest.

Confusion over 1983 Mugabe Banquet

A State banquet for Zimbabwean Prime Minister Robert Mugabe was less than stately after Garret FitzGerald took too long to hand-pick the wine and 30 unaccounted-for guests turned up.

Plans for the September 1983 visit and a lavish dinner in Dublin Castle had been going for weeks but the Taoiseach of the day annoyed his civil servants by leaving a few key decisions to the last minute.

Not only was the table plan for the Dublin Castle dinner incomplete but Mr FitzGerald spent too much time consulting with his wife Joan on the wine list.

Amid the fallout, other blunders were spotted - foreign affairs had been sending letters for the SDLP's John Hume, including an invite to lunch with then US Vice-President George Bush, to the wrong John Hume.

Ex-MP thought Priest wrote Gerry Adams' speeches

Former nationalist MP Seamus Mallon thought Gerry Adams's speeches in the early 1980s were being written by a priest.

During a particularly vicious phase of the troubles, the SDLP figure claimed the Sinn Fein president's statements were well put together but not penned by him.

Mr Mallon said he thought a respected Belfast priest, Fr Des Wilson, was the brains behind the republican leader's speeches.

The State papers show the unsubstantiated claim was carried back to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin in late 1983 following one of its fact-finding missions in the north.

Anglo-Irish tension over Falklands

Margaret Thatcher threatened to scrap a visit to Ireland because it was being "unfriendly" about the Falklands War.

The then Prime Minister was also in no mood to meet with Taoiseach Charles Haughey because of Ireland's plans to back calls for a ceasefire in the conflict off Argentina.

Britain pressurised Ireland during one of the most critical stages of the war to abstain from a planned United Nations resolution calling for an end to military action.

They believed every vote was crucial and Ireland had let it be known it was in favour of a ceasefire and would likely vote in favour of it.

FitzGerald banned Soviet airlines

Ireland agreed to ban Soviet airlines from the tarmac at Shannon just 10 days before the Cold War narrowly avoided nuclear catastrophe.

US president Ronald Reagan sent a direct request for Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald to stop Aeroflot stopovers after a civilian airliner was blown out of the sky.

The blanket ban was ordered after the Soviets shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 on September 1, 1983 near Sakhalin island in the Sea of Japan after it strayed into Russian air space.

All 269 passengers and crew, including US congressman Larry McDonald, were killed.

Paisley 'was called schizophrenic'

Ian Paisley was described as a schizophrenic ready to adopt the IRA's Brits Out mantra if he did not get his way on Northern Ireland politics.

According to a report marked secret and released under the 30-year rule, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Prior believed the Democratic Unionists were less prone to splits and division because of the leader's domination.

Mr Prior was reportedly angered after being targeted by DUP figures in a Derry city hotel.

His hardline views on Mr Paisley were recorded in Department of Foreign Affairs files following a meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Peter Barry at Hillsborough on October 19 1983.

Haughey warned on Ewart-Biggs Trust

Charlie Haughey was warned about potential embarrassment from sponsoring a trust set up in memory of a British ambassador blown up the IRA.

The widower of Christopher Ewart-Biggs wanted the Taoiseach to take up where Jack Lynch had left off and put his name to a memorial fund in his name.

But some of Mr Haughey advisers cautioned that he could end up sponsoring a lecture given by the likes of pro-unionist politician Conor Cruise O'Brien.

Mr Ewart-Biggs was killed on July 21 1976 when a landmine blew up under his car outside his home in Sandyford just 12 days after he took up the post.

Mandela honour dismissed

Politicians shot down plans to honour Nelson Mandela with the freedom of Dublin just five years before he was eventually awarded the accolade, classified files have revealed.

Although the late South African leader was conferred a Freeman of Dublin in 1988 - the first capital city in the world to do so - councillors dismissed the idea during behind-the-scenes meetings in 1983.

Then Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald ordered advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs after he became aware of the proposal.

But while government advisers suggested any diplomatic risk in conferring the honour would be outweighed by a positive international reaction, political parties on Dublin City Council could not agree.

Paisley 'tried to get round US ban'

Ian Paisley tried to get around being barred from the US by asking the United Nations Secretary General for an interview.

The former Northern Ireland First Minister had a visa revoked three times in 1981 and 1982 as he attempted to get into America and put the Unionist version of the Troubles across.

At the time, the US State Department said the decision to stop Mr Paisley at the border was based on his "near advocacy of violence".

But according to documents released under the 30-year rule by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, diplomats were told privately it was more about him personally than his policies.

Maze warders 'ignored' management

Out-of-control warders took over the running of the Maze Prison after the IRA escape in 1983.

Declassified documents show Irish officials warned the British government to take back control of the notorious jail before Republican paramilitaries starting killing "easy target" prison officers.

Dublin's then Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Barry was so worried about events inside the Maze, he despatched an underling to the British Embassy to make his concerns known.

In that meeting, the official describes the situation as "potentially explosive".

 

 

Journalists

David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Reporter
Carmella de Lucia
Reporter
Rachel Flint
Reporter
Contact Us
Full contact details