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Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson PA
State Papers

Young Boris Johnson argued for 'hard egg' approach to dealing with the IRA after Canary Wharf

Documents released to the National Archives show a conversation between Johnson and an Irish Government press officer.

BORIS JOHNSON TOLD an Irish official in 1996 that the UK Government needed to take a “hard egg” approach to dealing with the IRA following the ending of its 17-month ceasefire.

New documents released to the National Archives show the former Prime Minister reveal details of a conversation that Johnson had with a press officer for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Colin Wrafter.

The conversation between Johnson and Wrafter came just days after the breakdown of the IRA’s 17-month ceasefire, following the bombing of Canary Wharf in London.

In the conversation, Johnson – who was the Deputy Editor of the Conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph at the time – said that the UK Government needed to take a “hard egg” approach to the IRA.

“More worryingly, Johnson argued for what he called a ‘hard egg’ approach. ’Let them use the bomb and the bullet, we shouldn’t give in and we will beat them eventually’,” Wrafter wrote.

“I pointed out that a ‘hard egg’ approach can only lead to broken heads, that the priority now has to be to minimise the chances of another act of violence, and that the clear message for both governments has to be that while there’s no place for the men of violence at the negotiation table there is an alternative to violence.

“Implicit in Johnson’s argument was ‘let the nationalists go to hell’. He claimed that the IRA were in 1994 at the point of defeat, I asked him to name one serious security source who would back up that statement. Surely the lesson of the last twenty-five years is that there is no security or military solution. This was not an argument that he was prepared to accept,” Wrafter concluded.

The note from Wrafter was sent to the Second Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Seán O hUiginn.

The conversation itself took place on 13 February 1996, just days after the Canary Wharf bomb exploded in London on 9 February 1996.

The bombing, which killed two people and injured over 100, was the attack that ended the IRA’s 17-month ceasefire and caused some breakdown in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Inan Bashir, a 29-year-old newsagent and John Jeffries, a 31-year-old musician, were killed in the blast, which also caused an estimated £150 million worth of damage.

At the time, Taoiseach John Bruton condemned the attack, telling the Dáil that ”killing is never justified as part of the political process”.

“There is no moral equivalence between killing people to achieve political ends and making mistakes in the course of non-violent politics. They are entirely different, and we must be absolutely clear about this difference.”

Johnson had previously described the Northern Ireland peace process as a “defeat” for the UK Government.

In an interview for The Spectator he conducted with then-Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in May 2000, Johnson said that “in the long struggle of wills, he [McGuinness] won, and the British government connived in its own defeat”.

Johnson, who was forced to resign in July over his handling of a number of scandals, was replaced by Liz Truss, who was subsequently forced to resign over a botched mini-budget.

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