Former Irish president Mary McAleese has been slammed for accusing Britain of blunders in 1969 while failing to mention that Dublin was helping to create PIRA in the same year.
In a speech in the Palace of Westminster on Wednesday Mrs McAleese hailed the transformation in relations between the UK and Ireland since the Easter Rising.
But she also said Britain was wrong to adopt a hands-off role in Northern Ireland in 1969.
“We, whose lives were so deeply affected by events there, are probably entitled to ask what might have happened if the British Government had listened more attentively to my predecessor, Patrick Hillery, when on August 1, 1969, as Ireland’s foreign minister, he came to this city to plead with his UK counterpart, Michael Stewart, that Derry city was a powder keg that needed very sensitive handling,” she said.
Dr Cillian McGrattan, lecturer in politics at the University of Ulster, said that for someone who dedicated her presidency to reconciliation it was “a shabby misstep”.
She ignored the civil rights movement and the efforts by Terence O’Neill to reform Northern Ireland, he said.
“More damagingly to her reputation, of course, she also ignores the role of the Irish government in facilitating the emergence of the Provisional IRA.”
Until nationalists give up on that kind of “ideological manipulation of the past” then the prospects for reconciliation “seem slight”, he added.
Dr Connal Parr, historian at Fordham University’s London centre, said it seemed strange to criticise the UK in the 1960s while passing over “the well-documented role of Fianna Fail ministers such as Neil Blaney in the formation of the Provisional IRA”.
He added: “We would do well to avoid retrospectively blaming one side and an ‘if only they had’ approach to history, which fuels ongoing division and gets us nowhere in coming to terms with the past,” he added.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell said the improved relations between the UK and Republic of Ireland are to be welcomed by everyone.
“However, the notion that in 1969 the Irish government was an entirely benign force appears to wilfully ignore many key issues,” he said.
“Records show Dublin’s plans to split the then Official IRA and arm the newly formed Provisional IRA. This all took place before the outbreak of violence in Londonderry in August 1969.”