Thatcher and An Garda Síochána
Sir, – Margaret Thatcher’s scathing criticism of the Garda Síochána was misplaced (“Thatcher was scathing over Garda ‘failure’ to combat IRA activity”, State Papers 1988, December 28th).
In fact, the Garda, in endeavouring to halt the IRA and its offshoots from their murderous campaign, during the worst violent excesses in the 1970s to 1990s, were involved in over 14,000 arrests, with over 500 people charged with terrorist offences and 300 convictions and the interception of large amounts of explosives and arms, with the help of our armed forces. These arrests and interceptions substantially reduced the IRA’s capacity to wreak havoc, and the Garda intelligence, for all its faults, was effective given the lack of investment by the State in modernising or updating the force to meet international standards. The reduction in intelligence and arrests from 1994 onwards was due to the temporary ceasefire by the IRA, followed by the loyalist murder gangs. There was a clear hands-off approach by the State and those in Garda HQ in endeavouring to further diplomatic channels to garner peace. Unfortunately, this only lasted until 1996 when the IRA exploded a bomb in the London docklands.
Lest we forget, only for the commitment and sacrifice by front-line gardaí, and their colleagues on the Northern side of the Border, which is forgotten by the State and its allies, the murder and mayhem wreaked on our citizens from these terrorists on both sides of the Border could have been much worse. Let us honour the unarmed men and women of the Garda Síochána dedicated to preserving life and not the taking of it.
Let us also not forget the many thousands who died during this conflict and also the many injured or scarred for life. Politics should be the art of compromise, not the art of conflict and division, as that only feeds the extremist viewpoint. – Yours, etc,
(Retired Garda sergeant),
Letterkenny, Co Donegal.