Lenihan sought terrorism ‘crack down’ after Enniskillen bombing

Declassified 1987 files detail Anglo-Irish security meeting after bombing which killed 11

Former Minister for Justice Gerry Collins and former Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Lenihan at the opening of the Fianna Fail Ard-Fheis in the RDS, Dublin in 1984. Photograph: Tom Lawlor/The Irish Times

Former Minister for Justice Gerry Collins and former Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Lenihan at the opening of the Fianna Fail Ard-Fheis in the RDS, Dublin in 1984. Photograph: Tom Lawlor/The Irish Times

 

In recently released State Papers former Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Lenihan described the period after the 1987 Poppy Day bombing in Enniskillen as “a time for cracking down on terrorism”.

The minutes of an Anglo-Irish security meeting in the wake of the 1987 Poppy Day bombing in Enniskillen are amongst declassified files released on Thursday in Belfast.

The meeting in Dublin on November 16th, 1987 was attended by Northern Ireland Secretary Tom King and his junior minister John Stanley.

On the Irish side, Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Lenihan and Minister for Justice Gerry Collins were present.

The respective chiefs of police from both sides of the border, Sir John Hermon (RUC) and Mr Doherty (Garda) were also in attendance.

In his personal message to British prime minister Mrs Thatcher, Taoiseach Charles Haughey said that “all the security forces in this island must combine ... to have the perpetrators brought to justice”, referring to the IRA attack in Enniskillen, which left 11 dead and 63 wounded.

At the outset, the NI Secretary said that the British had asked for the meeting for three reasons: the Remembrance Day bomb outrage in Enniskillen; the kidnapping of dentist John O’Grady by a criminal gang and the recent Eksund arms shipment when French customs had seized a Panamanian-registered coaster off the French coast containing 120 tons of sophisticated weaponry.

This was a matter of grave concern, not only because of the size of the cargo but because of indications that there had been earlier shipments of arms.

They faced “a situation of extreme gravity”.

The Provisional IRA would be in a defiant mood following Enniskillen and would be all the more dangerous.

Responding, Mr Collins agreed that the threat posed by the reported arms shipments was a frightening one. The problem was too large for any government and the Irish would be looking for help from other quarters in dealing with it.

Referring to Enniskillen, Mr King described it as a shock to the system. He did not see the outrage as a last desperate throw by the IRA, but rather as a natural outcome of their increased delegation of operational decisions to autonomous cells.

Turning to the O’Grady kidnapping in the South, Mr Collins explained that the Garda operation had to be conducted with caution because of the known propensity of Dessie O’Hare’s gang for viciousness. Mr O’Grady had been freed and no ransom had been paid.

The RUC Chief Constable, Sir John Hermon said in relation to the arms shipments that there were indications of hides being prepared in the North.

He shared Mr Collins’ concern about Semtex which was suitable for small but dangerous anti-personnel grenades.

For the British, Mr Stanley noted that it was unsafe to assume that the Libyans would cease to make arms available to the Provisional IRA. He offered the British help with the search for arms in the Republic.