4 thoughts on “De Saturday Papers

  1. Harry Molloy

    I have to admit that my knowledge of Irish history when it comes to the North isn’t great so I cannot verify the accuracy of this letter that appeared in today’s indo (maybe one of you can?) but I certainly found it interesting enough to share :

    One Sunday in August 1969, when tensions were rising in Northern Ireland, British PM Harold Wilson “imagined” he had the immediate answer to end British involvement there.

    He telephoned the then-Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, on a secure line, informing him he would have no objection to the Republic sending the Irish Army into the North.

    Prior to the phone call, Wilson had in fact ordered the general officer commanding (GOC) of the British army in Northern Ireland to confine all troops to barracks from midnight on the following Tuesday, for 72 hours. He further directed that the troops in the barracks could only defend their barrack if it came under direct attack: they were to take no part whatsoever in any occurrence outside the barrack.

    On Monday morning, the GOC met the military attaché in the British Embassy in Dublin. He outlined the scenario that would ensue if the Irish Army attempted to ‘invade’ the North.

    The ‘B’ Specials had the same up-to-date armoury as the British army; the large number of gun clubs throughout Northern Ireland, with all members well trained in the use of firearms, by comparison to the then aged equipment of the Irish Army. They did not even have a wireless communication system. The GOC also pointed out the fact that if the Irish Army crossed the Border, it would be deemed an attack on Nato; placing the Government of Ireland in international hot water. Any Irish person imagining Nato would not have responded is indeed a fool.

    The main concern of the GOC and the military attaché was the danger of wholesale slaughter of Catholics by a well-armed militia, who at this stage were in a state of deliberately induced terror from unionist politicians, and clerical firebrands. Both men went to the then leader of the Opposition, Liam Cosgrave, to whom they outlined everything in detail.

    Mr Cosgrave immediately went to Jack Lynch who, when faced with the reality of the situation, ordered the Irish Army back from the Border. A month later, a number of the Army top brass held a meeting in Mullingar barracks to plan a coup d’etat: they were foiled by An Garda Síochána.

    Mr Cosgrave and Mr Lynch were criticised by those whose ideology on uniting Ireland was only by violent means. The fact remains, they prevented thousands of people being killed, or maimed, in what would have been sheer lunacy.

    Declan Foley

    Berwick, Australia

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