Current Affairs History Military Politics

The British Security Service, MI5, Planned Terrorist Assassination Of Fianna Fáil Leader, Charles Haughey

The last few days has seen the publication of another tranche of heretofore secret government documents under the National Archives Act, the 1986 legislation which requires files of historical value to be opened up for public scrutiny within thirty years of their addition to the National Archives of Ireland. Notable among these new materials is File 2017/10/34, from Roinn an Taoisigh or the Department of the Taoiseach, which has become the subject of headlines in the Irish and international press.

Dating to August 5th 1987, the document consists of a communication from the Ulster Volunteer Force, a British terrorist grouping in the UK-administered north-east of Ireland, to Charles J Haughey, the then Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader. Using official UVF-headed stationery, and signed with the customary code name, Capt W Johnston, the letter details a 1985 request from Britain’s clandestine Security Service, better known as MI5, seeking the assassination of the Mayo-born politician. At that time, Haughey was the leader of the Opposition in Dublin, and his murder would almost certainly have derailed attempts by Garret FitzGerald, the head of a Fine Gael-led 1982-87 coalition administration, to find a permanent solution to the conflict in the disputed Six Counties with Margaret Thatcher, the hardline Conservative Party prime minister in London. Attempts which eventually led to the Anglo-Irish Agreement of November 1985, an international treaty which a faction of MI5 viewed as a “sell-out”.

According to media reports, the UVF statement claims that the organisation had been used by the Security Service (MI5), the Secret Service (popularly known as, MI6), and the British Army’s Special Forces, from 1972 to 1978, and again from 1985, to carry out various gun and bomb attacks in Ireland. These included seventeen targeted assassinations.

In 1985 we were approached by a MI5 officer attached to the NIO [the ministerial Northern Ireland Office] and based in Lisburn, Alex Jones was his supposed name. He asked us to execute you and supplied us with the following details. Your cars, aerial photographs of your house, your island home on the Kerry coast… details of your trips into Farranford private airport, photographs of your plane. Photographs and the details of your private yacht.

We refused to do it. We were asked would we accept responsibility if you were killed. We refused.

We have no love for you but we are not going to carry out work for the Dirty Tricks Department of the British.

The communication also complained about the duplicity of the UK intelligence apparatus.

MI5 were double crossing us all the time we were working with them. We executed some of our best men believing them to be traitors. Jim Hanna was killed as a result of information given to us by MI5. Hanna was totally innocent and we killed one of our best volunteers.

Hanna was a senior leader of the Ulster Volunteer Force, and a close associate of several senior officers in the British Army Intelligence Corps, until his violent death in 1974.

During the 1980s, allegations by Charles Haughey and other leading members of Fianna Fáil, that Britain’s intelligence services were regularly interfering in Irish politics and elections, were usually dismissed by their opponents as paranoia or excuse-making. Now, such claims look like informed observations.

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11 comments on “The British Security Service, MI5, Planned Terrorist Assassination Of Fianna Fáil Leader, Charles Haughey

  1. motivations for refusal? You suggested 1) “MI5 were double crossing us all the time we were working with them”.
    2) the implications of murdering the Prime Minister of a foreign country frightened them
    3) he wasn’t a Catholic living in Northern Ireland (rub a do, any Taig will do) so was no threat to their hegemony
    4) they just weren’t into hard targets

  2. Bernard Maegraith

    Hi ASF, do you have a view on this Adams’ involvement, or is this just the English narrative being played out, as so often, in the Irish press?

    Bernard

    https://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/niallodowd/irish-media-now-make-gerry-adams-their-target-of-fake-news

    >

    • In fairness, it is news and should be reported. The uncritical sense of the reporting is what amuses. I have no doubt that the story is wrong. Not least, Fr. Faul’s position at the time placed him well outside the Republican loop he once had some access to, especially earlier in the decade. By that late ’80s he was yesterday’s man in terms of influence and insider knowledge.

      He was also driven by an increasingly anti-Provo anger or frustration, which was clouding some of his actions at the time. He disliked the Adam’s leadership with a passion.

      So a large pinch of salt can be dropped on the Loughgall claims.

      Notably, the press which is hyping up and taking at face value Denis Faul’s claims is largely ignoring the claims about the UVF and MI5 collusion.

      Which tells its own story.

  3. I recall the city centre demo in Belfast when Haughey visited.

  4. I AM NOT A BIT SURPRISED AT THE goings on with the British plot to murder Charles Haughey
    I was just thinking about the other attacks made against him and the most public was the attempt to bankrupt him by attacking merchant bank from where charlie had a lot of borrowings ,as far as i can remember Pat Gallagher of the Gallagher group main banking partner was The northern bank which was owned by the British Midland bank as far as i can remember they withdrew lending from Pat Gallagher and merchant bank because Pat was a member of a syndicate that bought a shares in a Racehorse of course the funding was borrowed from the northern bank, but anyway the bank being the main lender to merchant bank also led to their downfall , but Charlie was lucky because he had another bank on standby , that was Guinness Mahon bank who lent Charlie the money to reimburse merchant bank and thwart their plans
    BERING IN MIND THAT THEY TRIED TO HAVE HIM MURDERED I AM NOW MORE CONVINCED ABOUT THE ABOVE, AS THEY SUCCEEDED IN ANOTHER SIMILAR ATTACK ON ANOTHER CUSTOMER OF THE NORTHERN BANK IN THE EIGHTIES WHO WOULD HAVE BEEN A SUPPORTER OF THE REPUBLICAN MOVEMENT THEY BANKRUPTED HIM,
    IT MUST ALSO BE REMEMBERED THAT THERE WAS THE PHONE TAPPING OF JOURNALISTS TO FIND OUT AS TO WHO WAS LEAKING INFORMATION FROM GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS
    AT THAT TIME I MYSELF WAS A VICTIM OF THEIR DIRTY TRICKS AS BANKS WHERE USED TO MEET THEIR AIM TO HOUND REPUBLICANS AND THEIR FAMILIES

    IT WAS A MURKY TIME

    I

  5. Wee Jimmie

    Given what they knew about Haughey it’s more likely they blackmailed him and would want to keep him alive. He could spout all the rhetoric he wanted but if he was going to keep the sources of his wealth and the truth about his private life hidden he’s do what the Brits wanted where it mattered.

  6. seamus mallon

    I notice the irish independent focussed only on the story about the scuttlebut about adams re loughall, but totally ignored this story as did mehole martin.

    • I think the Loughgall accusations, or rumour-reporting, from Denis Faul illustrate how far he had fallen out of contact with the mainstream Republican Movement. He was, of course, always hostile to an extent, but he had his sources and those who respected him for his earlier efforts against the violence of the British Forces. By 1987 though he was very much opposed to the Provos and Adams’ in particular. The irony being, the latter was pursuing a path to some sort of peace the former probably would have approved of if he could have put his prejudices to one side.

      • Well it was well known amongst a sizable portion of volunteers north and south of the border back then and more so now that Jim Lynagh was very opposed to the direction Adams was taking the republican movement and was planning to split after Loughgall which would have resulted in him taking a large amount of highly experienced operatives with him which Adams was not going to allow happen , I have no problem believing it .

        • True, there was dissent. However, other critics of the peace process, avowed “militarists”, opted to toe the line when push came to shove back in the 1990s. The Real IRA split was far smaller than even they thought, members of the Army Executive and Council placing unity above disagreements. So we can’t know exactly how things would have gone if Loughgall had never happened. Personally, I think the idea that Adams “set up” the East Tyrone Brigade is inconceivable. Whatever strategy he may have been up to viz the peace process or talks with the British, he would never have gone that far.

          In any case, would the continued existence of the Tyrone unit have made that much difference in the long term? A negotiated settlement was inevitable, one way or another.

          • I don’t know about that , with the likes of Jim Lynagh and Paddy Kelly considering going there own way not only would East Tyrone have been lost but South Armagh would probably have followed suit which would have been far more devastating than the ” Real IRA ” split and from my conversations with former volunteers that served under Adams ( none of which support his current trajectory ) and knowing him myself to a lesser degree , I am assured there are no lengths he wouldn’t go to protect himself and his political project .
            I tend not to read too much mainstream media when it comes to republicanism but I do believe the men and women I talk with on a regular basis 100% as they have no reason to tell me otherwise .

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