1969 and using the Army against Britain


Sir, – Donnacha Ó Beacháin’s article on the Irish cabinet and the outbreak of the Troubles in 1969 draws attention again to those in the Irish government (such as Neil Blaney and Kevin Boland) who supported the deployment of the Army in Northern Ireland (“Irish ministers felt military incursion in North could lead to pogroms”, Analysis, August 16th).

One unnamed ministerial advisor is quoted as having said that an incursion by even one company of troops would have brought the United Kingdom to the conference table on partition.

Other advice prevailed and there was no invasion.

But discussion of this episode to date seems to have missed quite how unrealistic the advocates of military action were.

None appear to have thought about the implications of article 5 of the Nato treaty. That article (still in force) stipulates that an attack on one Nato member nation is an assault on them all, and that Nato members are entitled to use any action deemed necessary against the hostile country.

In the event of an Irish invasion of Northern Ireland in August 1969, the Republic would have become such a hostile country and she would have had to face not only the British Army but the forces of other Nato countries, the US included.

Those public figures in the Republic who hoped for UN intervention in 1969 were hardly any more realistic; they seem not to have remembered that the United Kingdom was (as it is still) a permanent member of the UN Security Council. – Yours, etc,