DUBLIN — In 1987, at the height of the conflict in Northern Ireland, loyalist paramilitaries told Ireland’s Prime Minister Charles Haughey that British intelligence wanted him dead.
Among the Irish government archives released today is a letter from the Protestant Ulster Volunteer Force in which they claimed to Haughey that “in 1985 we were approached by a MI5 officer attached to the NIO [Northern Ireland Office] and based in Lisburn, Alex Jones was his supposed name,” the UVF said. “He asked us to execute you.”
The UVF said they turned down the request, telling the Taoiseach (prime minister) that “We refused to do it. We were asked would we accept responsibility if you were killed. We refused.”
The letter was on UVF-headed paper and included tidbits about Haughey’s ostentatious personal lifestyle — his cars and mansion in Dublin, and Inishvickillane, an island off Ireland’s southwest coast he bought in 1974. The paramilitaries warned Haughey that these details would be used in a smear campaign against him.
But loyalist paramilitaries, as the letter said, had “no love” for the Republic of Ireland — on May 17 1974 UVF terrorists murdered 33 people in car bombs in Dublin and Monaghan, which borders Northern Ireland.
The revelation about the UVF warning has prompted speculation about its veracity — asking why would the UK want to kill Haughey and why, two years on, would the UVF tell the alleged target that it was asked to collude in an assassination?
In 1989, loyalists murdered Pat Finucane, a Belfast solicitor who represented clients accused of IRA membership — a shooting that Prime Minister David Cameron conceded in 2012 showed “shocking” evidence of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and state security forces in Northern Ireland.
The UVF warning to Haughey came two years after Margaret Thatcher signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement — which laid the foundations for the 1998 Good Friday peace deal that ended the Northern Ireland Troubles — with her then-Irish counterpart Garret Fitzgerald.
Most Northern Ireland unionists and loyalists opposed the 1985 agreement, which they said allowed Dublin too much say in Northern Ireland, with leaders such as Ian Paisley staging huge street protests denouncing a perceived “sell-out” by London.
In 1985, when the alleged assassination was mooted, Haughey too was an opponent of the agreement, which he said fell short of Ireland’s constitutional clauses aspiring to an all-Ireland state.
Haughey was then in opposition in Ireland, but after regaining office in 1987 he worked to implement the deal. Other Irish archive papers released today suggested that despite tensions over Northern Ireland, Thatcher and Haughey otherwise had a warm relationship.
After the Conservative Party’s 1987 British election win, Haughey penned a letter to Thatcher suggesting that her landslide win was “a well deserved tribute to your great personal qualities, particularly your skill and resolution.”Show