British were in North as ‘one million Irishmen’ wanted them, Haughey told

State Papers: Solution to conflict not possible just by military means, British diplomat said

Taoiseach Charles Haughey was told the British were not committed to the Anglo-Irish Agreement solely for security reasons. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Taoiseach Charles Haughey was told the British were not committed to the Anglo-Irish Agreement solely for security reasons. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

The British were in Northern Ireland only because “one million Irishmen” wanted them there, a British ambassador told taoiseach Charlie Haughey 30 years ago.

Documents marked “secret”, which record a meeting between then ambassador to Dublin Nicholas Fenn and Haughey show the diplomat was acting on the instructions of Northern Ireland secretary of state Tom King.

King told him to tell Haughey that a solution to Northern Ireland “could not be found by military means itself and real progress could only be made through politics”.

Fenn stressed during the meeting that the British were not committed to the  Anglo-Irish Agreement solely for security reasons, a suggestion which had been causing concern among Irish officials at the time.

“The ambassador stressed this was not so,” according to the note of the meeting in March 1988.

“They believed strongly in everything the agreement said and, in particular, in Article 1.”

Article 1 of the accord, signed three years previously, affirms the principle of consent in Northern Ireland, including the right to a united Ireland if the majority in the North wish for it.

Fenn wanted to “emphasise strongly the firm attachment of the British Government to Article 1 C”, the specific section of the agreement which refers to a united Ireland.

“The British were in this only because one million Irishmen in Northern Ireland wanted them to be there,” Fenn told Haughey.