There was scant nationalist sympathy for the IRA men killed by the SAS at Loughgall on May 8, 1987, a senior Roman Catholic bishop told the government in the aftermath of the foiled republican attack.
The SAS killed all eight IRA men as they were in the act of attacking the police station in the Co Armagh village. An innocent civilian, Anthony Hughes, was also killed by the soldiers.
The dead IRA men are venerated by republicans. But, just 10 days after the foiled attack Bishop Cahal Daly told the government that there was little support for the IRA men.
A confidential note of a meeting between the secretary of state and the bishop reported that the bishop had asked the minister about his views on the fallout from the incident.
The note, declassified at the Public Record Office in Belfast, records that the secretary of state said that he had “noted little sympathy in nationalist quarters for the line being sold by Sinn Fein.
“The bishop too had perceived little support: There had been no recurrence of earlier waves of sympathy in reaction to such events, but rather a mixed reaction amongst even hard-line sympathisers and general disgust at the hypocrisy of Adams.
“The bishop was concerned about the death of Mr Hughes, wondering whether it might not have been possible for the ASU [IRA active service unit] to be arrested and regretting that little sympathy had been expressed to the relatives of Mr Hughes.”
It added: “The bishop hoped that it would be possible for the government to release as many details as possible about the incident and in particular the offensive nature of PIRA’s operation against the RUC station.”