The honest citizens who repaid money to government


A file released at the Public Records Office in Belfast contains details of some extraordinarily honest members of the public who anonymously sent the Government money to which they felt they were not entitled.

The ‘Conscience money’ file, which stretches back a decade to the early 1970s, contains many of the original handwritten notes which accompanied the money.

A 1974 handwritten note from Cookstown, which is contained in the file, said: “Dear Sir, Some time ago I received a claim for bomb damage to my vehicle. I find that after the damage has been repaired and all things taken into account I have £8 over and above the estimate.

“I return this to you in the hope that Ulster may see greater and better days in the near future. Thanking you, yours sincerely, Christian.”

In December 1984 the NIO’s Prisons Accounts Department received an anonymous envelope containing cash and a note which said “Conscience Money £250”.

Almost a year earlier, a similar payment had been received from an anonymous source.

The envelope, which was postmarked Magherafelt, was addressed to the Secretary of State and contained £250. A note from WJ Kirk in the NIO’s Accounts Payments Branch said: “There is no indication of this money being payment of any particular account and must be regarded as ‘conscience money’.”

Among numerous such examples in the file, there is a much more modest payment – of £5 in one note – sent in 1979 in an envelope postmarked Enniskillen. An accompanying note said: “Conscience money. Please insert in Belfast dailies to show that you have received same. Thank you.”

Earlier that same year, £20 had been sent to ‘Imperial Treasury, c/o Lord Chief Justice’ with a note that said ‘Conscience money’.

And in 1977, an envelope addressed to the Ministry for Bomb Damage Compensation contained £160 with a note that said: “£160 conscience returned bomb damage compensation”.

That same year a £150 payment was received by DoE with a short note that said: “Compensation returned (bomb damage) £150, matter of conscience.”