“Gripping the IRA”

Much has been said about the security triumph which, the Brits say, halted the IRA and led to the Good Friday agreement.

In  late 1988  a different picture was being painted by the Security Coordination Department of the Foreign Office. In a letter to the Northern Ireland Office , Ivor  Roberts said that “MPSB, Box 500 and the RUC each have their role on the intelligence side”.  He remarked  that Operation Flavius was the exception rather than the rule and that operational matters such as the Eksund follow up are also “uncoordinated”. He said that the Security Service ” rarely get round to telling us what we want to know”.

Operation Flavius was the shooting of three IRA members in Gibraltar. Roberts complained that nobody would tell him of the detailed provenance of the Eksund’s cargo. On the latter point, the cargo came from Libya but it is very likely that the Secret Intelligence Service and possibly the Security Service had agents among those who purchased the arms  and particularly the Semtex in Libya. This may well explain the reluctance of HMG to press for compensation for those killed and injured by PIRA Semtex bombs.

There were also issues between the Foreign Office and security coordination.

He characterised the position as “entrenched interests”.

He had no solution to propose, reflecting that the responsible ministers “are not, of course without their own vested interests.”

The image is of each party, RUC, Army and MI5 ploughing its own furrow, to the detriment of security. It gives further credence, of course, to the case that many killings and other operations were carried out by one arm of the State, unknown to another. Collusion by the State was not directed just against Republicans.

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