Declassified Files: RUC chief constable scathing about Garda cooperation

RUC chief constable Sir John Hermon wrote to the Secretary of State
RUC chief constable Sir John Hermon wrote to the Secretary of State

In the years immediately after the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement there was no improvement in security co-operation across the border, RUC Chief Constable Sir John Hermon told the government.

In a brief, blunt note to secretary of state Tom King in June 1988 which has been declassified, Sir John said: “I do not see any improvement in Garda performance and no pre-emptive intelligence is being received. No meaningful seizures or arrests and charging of terrorist criminals are being made in the South.

“Relationships between the RUC and Garda are good but good relations are no substitute for results or full professional commitment and co-operation”.

The following year, a secret draft paper prepared by British officials involved in operating the agreement structures set out the security progress made by both sides since 1985.

It said that in 1986 a “framework for closer cooperation” was agreed and was to cover the broad swathe of police activity and related fields such as intelligence, operations, computerisation and ‘legislative procedures and related matters’. The paper said: “Implementation of these reports has not, however, in the view of the British side, been either as rapid or effective as the gravity of the security situation required. In the key area of intelligence, for example, some of the agreed recommendations of the Joint Working Group were not implemented by the Garda; others were implemented but not, as it appeared with the commitment necessary to bring positive results.”

It went on: “In the early part of 1988 it appeared to the British side that virtually no progress was being made on the Irish side that virtually no progress was being made on the Irish side towards the achievement of the objectives of the agreed joint work programmes. In light of Irish concern about the Attorney General’s decision in the Stalker/Sampson case, the McAnespie shooting, the Private Thain case and the ‘Birmingham Six’ judgment, formal relations between the Garda and the RUC had effectively been broken off.

“In order to make progress, it proved necessary for the British side to elevate the exchanges to the highest levels. The British side hopes that this difficult period can now be regarded as past history.”

It said that the British welcomed indications from the Garda commissioner of “significant improvements” in the operational capacity of the Garda, particularly in intelligence, and “a more positive approach to cooperation generally, and cooperation on intelligence matters in particular” was evident.

The paper went on to say that “it can therefore now be confidently asserted that considerable progress in cross-border security cooperation has been made”, with intelligence-sharing leading to “significant finds of material made by both the RUC and the Garda”. It said there was “a shared appreciation of the value of preemptive intelligence” being shared both ways.