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New Year Releases 2004 - Public Records of 1973



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PUBLIC RECORDS: 1972 1973 1974 1975

Page Compiled: Martin Melaugh
Material is added to this site on a regular basis - information on this page may change

New Year Releases 2004
Public Records of 1973

Northern Ireland

On 1 January 2004 the Public Record Office (PRO) in Kew released a number of government documents under the 'thirty year rule'. Some of these documents were related to events in Northern Ireland during 1973. To coincide with the release of these documents BBC Northern Ireland television broadcast a programme entitled 'Cabinet Confidential' which was shown on the evening of Thursday 1 January 2004. The producers of the programme also compiled a web page based on the programme which included scans of some of the documents in question. (This web page was made available at the PRO web site {external_link}.)

The following page is based on those documents related to Northern Ireland which were scanned and included at the PRO site. The documents are listed in chronological order. Users can either view the documents at the PRO site or at the CAIN site - 'click' on the page numbers (two sets of links are given for each document).


PREM 15/1689 Friday 9 February 1973

Document reference: PREM 15/1689
Northern Ireland. Weekly Intelligence Report. 9 February 1973
Situation report to the Prime Minister
From M.S. Bayley, Brigadier, BGS (Int) DIS

This 'Weekly Intelligence Report' provides an overview of the situation in Northern Ireland as seen by British Intelligence. On the document there is a note that names have been "deleted and retained under Section 3(4)" prior to release on 1 January 2004; this appears to have been carried out inconsistently and does not cover, for example, the name of Gerry Adams.

"It has been reliably reported that ADAMS (who has been the Provisionals’ Brigade Adjutant in BELFAST) is now in DUBLIN as assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Provisional IRA, and that the latter is #####. It is alleged that #### [ADAMS] was given this appointment to provide representation from the North among Provisional leaders in the South, and also to please the younger elements of the Provisionals in BELFAST." [Page 2; Paragraph 6]

PREM 15/1689 at CAIN web site - Pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 |
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PREM 15/1689 at PRO web site [3 pages] {external_link}


FCO 87/247 Monday 2 April 1973

Document reference: FC0 87/247
Telegram from Edward Heath to Liam Cosgrave, 2 April 1973

Edward Heath, then British Prime Minster, sent a telegram on 2 April 1973 to Liam Cosgrave, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), to seek further cooperation between security forces in Northern Ireland and those in the Republic of Ireland.

FC0 87/247 at CAIN web site - Pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 |
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FC0 87/247 at PRO web site [3 pages] {external_link}


FCO 87/247 Belleek Wednesday 4 April 1973

Document reference: FC0 87/247 - Belleek
Letter from Mr A.W.Stephens to W.K.K.White, 4 April 1973

This document contains a letter, and an annex listing security incidents in Belleek, County Fermanagh, plus a further annex consisting of a map of the Belleek area. The letter was sent by A.W.Stephens, then Head of Defence Secretariat 10 at the Ministry of Defence, to W.K.K.White, then an official at the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs.

The letter seeks cooperation from the Irish government in clearing an area of wood along the border where attacks by the IRA were carried out against the RUC base in Belleek.

FC0 87/247 at CAIN web site - Pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 |
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FC0 87/247 at PRO web site [3 pages] {external_link}


FCO 87/221 Wednesday 4 - Friday 5 April 1973

Document reference: FC0 87/221
Report by Frank Steele of a visit to the Bogside and Creggan on 4 to 5 April 1973

This document contains a report of a visit made by Frank Steele and Michael Oatley to the Bogside and Creggan areas of Derry on 4 and 5 April 1973. At this time Steele and Oatley were presented as being officials from William Whitelaw's office (Whitelaw was then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland). However, both Steele and Oatley were officers in the Secret Intelligence Service ('MI6').

The visit followed the publication of a British government White Paper:

Northern Ireland Office. (1973) Northern Ireland Constitutional Proposals, [White Paper], (Cmnd. 5259), (20 March 1973). London: HMSO.]
and the report mentions reaction to the White Paper in several sections.

The reports assessment of local reaction to the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) was very over-optimistic and was not borne out by the course of events.

FC0 87/221 at CAIN web site - Pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 |
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FC0 87/221 at PRO web site [3 pages] {external_link}


PREM 15/1693 Monday 2 July 1973

Document reference: PREM 15/1693
Note of a meeting between William Whitelaw and Edward Heath, 2 July 1973

This is a note of a meeting that took place at Chequers on Sunday 1 July 1973 at 8.00pm between William Whitelaw, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Edward Heath, then British Prime Minster. Also present was Mr Frank Cooper.

The meeting discussed the results of the Northern Ireland Assembly Election held on Thursday 28 June 1973 and also the impact of the outcome on potential political progress in the region.

PREM 15/1693 at CAIN web site - Pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 |
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PREM 15/1693 at PRO web site [3 pages] {external_link}


cover of document entitled subversion in the udr

August 1973

Document reference: (?)
Report entitled 'Subversion in the UDR' prepared by British military intelligence in August 1973.

This document was uncovered in the PRO by researchers who were working for the 'Pat Finucane Centre' and the group 'Justice for the Forgotten'. The contents from the document first came to wider public attention when they formed part of a series of articles that appeared in the Irish News (a Belfast based newspaper) on 2 and 3 May 2006. Reaction to the newspaper's reports were carried in articles published on 4 May 2006. This document was part of a number of related items which included a covering letter and additional annexes.

The document is believed to have been prepared by British military intelligence in August 1973. Although this version is marked as a 'draft' it is clear that a version of the document was presented to the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) which provides intelligence assessments to the British Prime Minister and other government ministers.

The document highlights the issue of Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) members who at the same time were also members of Loyalist paramilitary groups such as the Ulster Defence Assocation (UDA) / Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) and Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). It estimates that between five and fifteen per cent of men in the UDR were also members of paramilitary groups. The document lists losses of arms and ammunition in a number of 'raids' on UDR armouries carried out by Loyalist paramilitaries and concludes that: "Since the beginning of the current campaign the best single source of weapons (and the only significant source of modern weapons) for Protestant extremist groups has been the UDR".

'Subversion in the UDR'
The text from the document is available at a separate web page.
A PDF version of the document is also available [PDF; 1872KB].


PREM 15/1693 Friday 16 November 1973

Document reference: FCO 87/248
Letter from Mr A.W.Stephens to Mr V.H.S.Benham, 16 November 1973

This document is a letter, and annexes, about 'Operation Folklore' dated 16 November 1973 from Mr A.W.Stephens, then Head of Defence Secretariat 10, to Mr V.H.S.Benham, an official at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) in London.

'Operation Folklore' appears to have been the planning of additional emergency, or special, powers for controlling Northern Ireland in the event of a complete breakdown of law and order. The powers were being requested by the British Army and the letter and annexes sets out the changes envisaged to existing legislation as well as potential new legislation. The additional powers centred around matters such as 'stop and question', 'searching premises', 'arrest', etc. However, one exceptional measure involved soldiers being able to open fire without fear of legal penality.

"In my first paragraph I said that the Annex to this letter contained most of the extra powers we considered necessary. The exception is a power of a different sort and it seems easiest to consider it separately. We feel strongly that in the wholly abnormal situation envisaged it would be essential for a soldier to be able to open fire without fear of legal penalty in certain circumstances where under the present law a court would consider that he had acted unlawfully. The situations we envisage include:-
a. opening fire without warning on persons merely carrying firearms (ie without having to be satisfied that they were about to use them etc);
b. opening fire at persons breaking a curfew who failed to halt when challenged; and
c. opening fire in certain other situations, eg at persons who fail to halt when challenged, in areas designated by the S of S [Secretary of State for Northern Ireland] or, perhaps, the GOC [General Officer Commanding the British Army in Northern Ireland] as "special areas", which would, typically, be exceptionally "hard" areas in which the Army needed to regain control and which might or might not correspond with areas under curfew."

FCO 87/248 at CAIN web site - Pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |
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FCO 87/248 at PRO web site [6 pages] {external_link}


See also:
Public Records
New Year Releases 2003 - Public Records of 1972
New Year Releases 2004 - Public Records of 1973
New Year Releases 2005 - Public Records of 1974
New Year Releases 2006 - Public Records of 1975

 


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