The head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service was furious about an article in the News Letter which claimed that there may be a mutiny among senior civil servants over the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Sir Ken Bloomfield — who in other files made clear his personal opposition to what he saw as a “fatally flawed” agreement — was equally clear that civil servants would follow the directions of their political masters.
The files make clear that other senior civil servants were deeply unhappy, not just at the agreement, but at the fact that the government had consciously cut them out of the loop during its negotiation.
In a October 29, 1985 confidential memo, Sir Ken said: “The ‘Belfast News Letter’ continues to make as much mischief as possible.
“I do not know on what basis they make in their leading article today the statement that ‘It is good to know that influential Northern Ireland Civil Servants have no wish to be party to a betrayal of their kith and kin’.
“However, I regard as extremely mischievous the suggestion in an article on page four headed ‘Concern grows over deal reaction’ that ‘Senior Ulster Civil Servants’ have told ministers that ‘The NIO could well be faced with a refusal of Ulster Civil Servants to work with’ what is described as ‘an Eire secretariat based in Belfast’.”
Elsewhere in the file, Sir Ken made clear that all of his senior colleagues would put aside their personal views of the agreement and act professionally as civil servants.
The Province’s most senior civil servant went on: “There is of course a risk in matters such as this, if one seeks to challenge a mendacious press report, that one may in the process seem to be providing collateral for other speculation on confidential matters — in this case, whether or not there is to be a ‘secretariat based in Belfast’.
“But a canard of this kind, once run in any newspaper, can become part of the mythology (like the idea that civil servants were disloyal to the power sharing executive of 1974).
“If you agree, I would like it to be made known to the press, through David Gilliland, that no senior Northern Ireland Civil Servant has at any time suggested to any minister that he would do other than continue to do this duty under and arrangements which Government and Parliament might see fit to put into place.”
The file contains a press release which strongly rebutted the suggestion that civil servants might be disloyal.