Irish Ministers ‘pedantic’ at Intergovernment meeting

First meeting of the conference was marked by widespread protests and clashes between the RUC and loyalists

Former British secretary of state
,
 Tom King with the then Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Lenihan in Dublin. Photograph: Kevin McMahon

Former British secretary of state , Tom King with the then Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Lenihan in Dublin. Photograph: Kevin McMahon

Fri, Aug 29, 2014, 10:32

British concern about the Irish government’s line at the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference at Stormont on December 11th, 1985, emerges in today’s release of previously confidential files in Belfast.

The first meeting of the conference was marked by widespread protests and clashes between the RUC and loyalists.

Thousands marched to the Anglo-Irish Secretariat in Maryfield, Belfast, resulting in 38 RUC officers being injured.

In a memo to secretary of state Tom King, dated December 17th, 1985, Dr Rhodes Boyson, minister of state at the Northern Ireland Office, complained at the forthright attitude of Irish ministers at the conference and expressed concerns at the impact of the loyalist protests on RUC morale.

“My impression was that the Irish Ministers were determined to enforce their share of the Agreement – often being pedantic about its meaning – while seemingly oblivious of the need to show the deeply-worried unionist community that the Agreement had advantages for them,” Boyson wrote.

“Law and order in the Province . . . depends to a large extent on the green line of Constables who must be now worried about their (and their families’) position within the Protestant communities. If it seems that their Chief Constable is to make changes at the behest of Dublin through the Intergovernmental Conference, morale could easily be undermined with tragic results.”