Papers reveal secret links with O'Neill cabinet

 

THE Dublin and Belfast governments had achieved greater cooperation by 1968 than has been generally realised, according to a file inadvertently released to the National Archives.

This co-operation involved meetings between the Taoisigh of the day, Sean Lemass and Mr Jack Lynch, and the Northern Ireland Prime Minister, Capt Terence O'Neill, along with several other ministers and senior civil servants.

The official report of one such meeting, in January 1968, was misfiled with the official documents for 1966, which were released to the public by the National Archives yesterday. The original report, along with many other files relating to a series of meetings over the previous three years, is still on the restricted list.

The report of the January 1968 meeting, which took place in Iveagh House in Dublin, deals with the developing recognition of the Northern Ireland state and government by the Government in Dublin, and matters of mutual interest like trade, tourism and economic and cultural relations.

According to the report, Capt O'Neill said in reply to Mr Lynch's welcoming speech and toast at the lunch that the series of meetings was "a bigger break with the past than many people realised

Other files released showed that elaborate and top secret plans for the repatriation of Roger Casement's remains were co-ordinated at the Irish Embassy in London in early 1965.

The British prime minister, Mr Harold Wilson, had emphasised that "there could be no ceremonies on the British side and that he wished to avoid sensational publicity over the actual arrangements", according to a confidential report on the repatriation.

Britain also feared that Casement's remains would be reinterred in the North. They sought, and were given, an assurance that they would be buried in Glasnevin, and that "any question of the further removal of the remains should not be considered until the unity of Ireland was restored".

The repatriation caused a sensation in Dublin. Five days later thousands of people lined the streets of the city in silent tribute as the coffin was carried past on an Army gun carriage, to the sound of muffled drums.

Meanwhile, files released in Belfast showed that the return of the Labour government in 1964 raised the hopes of civil rights campaigners in Northern Ireland.

But the Wilson government stood fast by the "Westminster Convention" that such issues as discrimination and gerrymandering were ones for the consideration of the Northern government.

In September 1964, on the eve of his party's electoral victory, Mr Wilson replied to Mrs Patricia McCluskey, chairwoman of the Campaign for Social Justice in Northern Ireland, a middle class pressure group, in broad support of the organisation's aims and objectives.

But in January 1965, after he became prime minister, Mr Wilson's attitude was different. The files show that the standard response to complaints of gerrymandering and discrimination by the Unionist government in the North was to say that such matters were not his government's responsibility, and that complaints should be addressed to the authorities in Northern Ireland.