Politics

John Major privately admitted the IRA could not be beaten militarily, files reveal


Other files show the British Government believed Irish republican leader Gerry Adams was on the IRA Army Council at the time of the first ceasefire in 1994.

John Major was Prime Minister between 1990 and 1997

Prime Minister John Major privately admitted the IRA could not be beaten militarily, newly-released files reveal today.

In 1992, the then Premier conceded there was no military solution to the Troubles, according to previously-secret documents.

According to an Irish Government memo, Mr Major – now Sir John – made the comments at a Downing Street meeting in February 1992, where he hosted newly-elected Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and senior Irish ministers.

The meeting, which came weeks before the UK general election, was held amid the backdrop of ongoing talks between the main political parties in Northern Ireland.

The file says that Mr Reynolds asked Mr Major directly: “Do you think we can defeat the IRA?”

The PM responded: “Militarily that would be very difficult: I would not say this in public, of course, but, in private, I would say, possibly no.”

Other files show the British Government believed Irish republican leader Gerry Adams was on the IRA Army Council at the time of the first ceasefire in 1994.

According to a confidential record of a conversation in October that year between Irish Ambassador to Britain Joseph Small and Paul Lever, a senior official in the Foreign Office, the UK Government believed the Sinn Fein president sat on the terrorists’ ruling body.

Mr Small referred to the fact that the British civil servant had said that a Mr Murphy “was the member of the seven-man IRA Army Council who showed most reluctance in relation to the statement of August 31 although he did not dissent in the end”.

Referencing the decision of the IRA to announce a ceasefire, the UK official appeared to be referring to Thomas “Slab” Murphy, who is alleged to have been one of the most powerful individuals in the IRA.

The Irish official said “another one or two may have had reservations although they, too, went along with the decision”.

He added: “According to Lever, Adams sits on this council.”

Gerry Adams has always denied being a member of the IRA.







Gerry Adams has always denied being a member of the IRA
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Image:

PA)

Meanwhile, in the wake of the 1993 Warrington and Bishopsgate bombings, an Irish official warned the attacks were likely to empower the “Tory right-wing” and the “financial interests” in London.

The Bishopsgate device, which was planted in a stolen truck, killed one person and injured 44.

It caused widespread destruction in the City of London, causing millions of pounds worth of damage.

The Warrington atrocity caused the deaths of three-year-old Jonathan Ball and 12-year-old Tim Parry, with 54 people injured by the explosion.

In an official communication, Counsellor Joe Hayes described the feeling in Westminster in the wake of the attacks.

“Reaction at Westminster is likely to follow a predictable pattern,” he wrote, following the Bishopsgate blast.

“The bombings will undoubtedly surface during the coming week, probably at Prime Minister’s questions and the Tory right-wing will press their predictable demands for an enhanced security response.

“This time round, however, the usual voices may be stiffened by the addition of some London-based MPs and, behind the scenes, by powerful voices who represent the interests of various financial institutions in the City of London.”

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