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Dublin: 11 °C Monday 22 December, 2014

30 years ago: Anger at Irish Government over IRA bombings

Newly released documents related to the Hyde Park and Regents Park bombings show that people both at home and abroad thought that Ireland’s government weren’t doing enough to stamp out the IRA.

A police photographer at the scene, following the IRA's bombing of Hyde Park, London.
A police photographer at the scene, following the IRA's bombing of Hyde Park, London.
Image: PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images

ON 20 JULY 1982, two IRA bombs detonated at Hyde Park and Regents Park in London, leaving eight British soldiers dead and countless more injured.

Numerous horses were also killed or had to be put down due to the IRA’s choice of target – the Household Cavalry.

New documents released under the 30-year rule reveal the numerous letters which were received by the Taoiseach at the time, Charles Haughey, the majority of which called on government to do more to stamp out the IRA.

They came from Ireland and elsewhere, penned by Irish and non-Irish alike.

The anger, the accusations and the responses

The day after the bombing, the Department of the Taoiseach received a letter from Templeogue, in Dublin 12, in which the “totally revolted” author urged him to “use the powers you have under the various Anti-Terrorists acts to intern known IRA members immediately.”

In the response, dated 13 August, the suggestion was noted. While the correspondence reassured the original author that Haughey “shares the revulsion felt by you and all decent people at the London bombings”, it wasn’t felt that the suggestion “would be an effective of appropriate measure at this time.”

To view larger image, please click here.

(Image taken from file 2012/90/981, available from the National Archives)

On 23 July, 1982, an Irishwoman living in Leicester wrote to the Taoiseach. Describing herself as “Irish born and bred”, the recent “outrage by your I.R.A” had left her feeling “sickened”.

Writing that she believed that Haughey’s public condemnation was little more than a “routine announcement”, she felt that with Ireland’s previous (and next) taoiseach, Dr Garret FitzGerald, there had been “hope for Ireland, but sadly this seems to be a ‘a voice crying in the wilderness’.”

Frankly – at the moment – I am truly ashamed to be Irish.

In response, the government refuted her claims that they weren’t doing enough, “especially when they take place outside our jurisdiction”.

To view in its own window, please click here.

(Image taken from file 2012/90/981, available from the National Archives)

The view that Ireland’s government could have been doing more to prevent these atrocities were also hinted at by the British press, as the highlighted section in the following piece suggests.

To view larger image, please click here.

(Image taken from file 2012/90/981, available from the National Archives)

To view larger image, please click here.

(Image taken from file 2012/90/981, available from the National Archives)

Even greater anger, unsurprisingly, was vented by English citizens.

A letter from Southampton opened with the writer saying that “no way can I show respect for a leader of a country that backs and glorifies the cowardly murders in London on July 20th.”

I believe in compassion, your fellow countrymen deserve no compassion. They know none and deserve none.

They go on to say: “For a so-called religious country there seems an awful lot of evil minority groups which drag the rest down with them.”

Another letter said that if the UK had shown the same level of inhumanity as the IRA, “we would have come in and destroyed Ireland”.

If the I.R.A thinks that blowing up innocent people in England will make the British pull out of N. Ireland then they do not know the British!

Those English who were of Irish ancestry where especially angry and, in certain cases, denounced their heritage.

To view larger image, please click here.

(Image taken from file 2012/90/981, available from the National Archives)

To view larger image, please click here.

(Image taken from file 2012/90/982, available from the National Archives)

The Global Reach

The anger regarding the IRA’s activities and the belief that the Irish government was supporting them reached far and wide. The Irish Consulate in San Francisco reported on the “mostly abusive phone calls” that they had received.

To view larger image, please click here.

(Image taken from file 2012/90/981, available from the National Archives)

How the bombing was reported in the US was also of interest, with a transcript of a report by news anchor Dan Rather for the CBS Radio Network among the files.

Government did tried to turn the tide of negativity, however. At the Dublin Horse Show on 6 August, 1982, it was announced that a contribution would be made “to help the widows and children of those killed”.

It was also announced that “the donors would like to replace the horses which were killed, a number of which were Irish bred.”

Read: 1930s documents reveal state attempts to disband Fianna Éireann >

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