Secretary of State demanded changes to 1985 accord

The agreement led to a furious unionist backlash
The agreement led to a furious unionist backlash

An October 23, 1985 secret memo from the permanent secretary of the NIO to the Cabinet Secretary detailed the “concern” of Tom King at several details of the draft agreement.

It said: “He considers that several changes are required if we are to be confident of getting the agreement approved by the Cabinet and securing the acquiescence of moderate unionist opinion in Northern Ireland.”

It set out 10 points on which Mr King wanted the agreement or the associated communiqué redrafted.

Among them was a request for a change to Article 8 of the proposed agreement, which suggested the use of ‘mixed courts’ made up of judges from both sides of the border.

The memo said: “He is seriously concerned that this article as drafted will be taken by the judiciary in Northern Ireland and by unionist opinion generally as an unwarranted reflection on the current administration of justice in Northern Ireland...Mr King remains extremely unhappy about reference to mixed courts, which he would prefer to see deleted altogether.

“He made his views clear to the Taoiseach and Mr Barry when he sent to Dublin on 17 September.

“He fears that the inclusion of these words will raise the issue of sovereignty and could prove a sticking point in Cabinet, as well as creating difficulties in Parliament.”

In the end, the agreement did include the phrase: “The Conference shall seek, with the help of advice from experts as appropriate, measures which would give substantial expression to this aim, considering inter alia the possibility of mixed courts in both jurisdictions for the trial of certain offences.”