FitzGerald advised to take 'effective and tougher action' against terrorists


FORMULATING IRELAND'S POLICY:On the last day of 1982, Walter Kirwan, assistant secretary in the Taoiseach’s office, reviewed the events of the turbulent year and offered to the incoming taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, a survey of what options were now open on Northern policy.

FitzGerald had become taoiseach for the second time just over a fortnight earlier.

Kirwan advised that constitutional nationalism as represented by the SDLP was “in disarray”. Morale was shaken, money, new blood and worthwhile political outlets were lacking and John Hume was “away too much”.

Kirwan believed there would now be “a vacuum in Irish policy as to what can or should realistically, be done in the short-term”.

He argued that the “main elements in an Irish response to this situation should be more effective and tougher action” against the terrorists. He believed this could obtain public support were it to be perceived in Northern Ireland “as part of a wider policy, with sufficient nationalist content”.

In a further document – which was withdrawn from one file under the National Archives Act but survived in another – Kirwan argued that the actions of “the Provos and the INLA” were “so deeply prejudicing” the advancement of the objectives of the Irish people and government that “serious consideration must be given to taking further steps that should be more effective in preventing murders and other violent acts before they happen”.

He instanced the possibility of confinement under the Offences Against the State Act 1940, if this could be conditional that similar actions would not be taken in the North, or excluding movements of some individuals from Border areas.

Kirwan’s main advice was to set up a convention for a New Ireland, as proposed by the SDLP. This would be “the single most effective way to meet nationalist concerns” and would cover what looked like being “a mark-time period, in respect of dealings with the British”.

The files also say that when such a forum had been outlined to Hume at talks with Charles Haughey and his special adviser, Martin Mansergh, in July, the SDLP leader had described it as “the best idea for a long time”.

It would come to fruition the following year as the New Ireland Forum.