State Papers: INLA described by Catholic priests as ‘bunch of lunatics’

Former SDLP leader John Hume compared UDR to ‘a group of Rangers supporters’

Former SDLP leader John Hume: provided colourful description of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

The INLA was described as a "bunch of lunatics" by Catholic priests Denis Faul and Raymond Murray during the organisation's 1985 hunger strikes.

A document on meetings with various prominent figures in Northern Ireland on December 23rd and 24th, 1985, compiled by Department of Foreign Affairs official David Donoghue, was among State papers released after 30 years.

INLA prisoners had begun a rolling hunger strike following their convictions based on the evidence of "supergrass" Harry Kirkpatrick.

“Both Fr Faul and Fr Murray described the INLA (to which all 27 defendants belong) as ‘a bunch of lunatics’...The INLA, accordingly, does not enjoy much support in the community,” Mr Donoghue wrote.


However, he noted that the priests said the idea of any republican being on hunger strike would have an “emotive impact” which would “blur the distinction between the Provos and the INLA”.

He continued: “Most Provos would prefer not to get involved in a hunger strike, considering that the time is not ripe, but there may be pressure on them ‘from the ghettos’ to rally behind the INLA and demonstrate moral support.”

Meanwhile, in a separate file, then leader of the SDLP John Hume provided this colourful description of the Ulster Defence Regiment: "a group of Rangers supporters put in uniforms, supplied with weapons and given the job of policing the area where Celtic supporters live."

The description was contained in a September 1985 note prepared by Irish official Daithí Ó Ceallaigh, who Mr Hume had briefed on his meeting with then Northern secretary Tom King.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times