Declassified files: Thatcher wrote personal note to Bloomfield after bombs

Sir Kenneth Bloomfield with Margaret Thatcher
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield with Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher immediately wrote to the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service on the day of the IRA bomb attack which was intended to murder his entire family as they slept.

A copy of the letter from the Prime Minister, who was at the Queen’s Scottish residence of Balmoral when she heard news of the attack, is contained within a file declassified at the Public Records Office in Belfast.

The IRA had placed four large Semtex bombs packed with bullets around Sir Ken’s Helen’s Bay home, and if all had exploded he and his teenage family would likely have been killed.

Only two of the bombs went off, tearing holes in the brickwork and shattering windows in nearby houses.

In the wake of the attack, Sir Ken issued a statement of defiance: “I feel very thankful that my wife, my eighteen-year-old son Timothy and I have survived the callous attack on our home.

“I have now worked in the Northern Ireland Civil Service for almost 36 years, trying to be of service to all the people of Northern Ireland.

“This is in the tradition and task of public service in this country, and neither they nor I will be deterred from the duty we owe to our fellow citizens and to democratic government.”

The Prime Minister personally wrote to Sir Ken on September 12 1988, the day of the attack.

She said: “I was absolutely horrified when I heard early this morning at Balmoral of the bomb attack on your house.

“It must have been a most terrifying experience for you all, quite apart from the damage.

“Thank goodness you are all safe. Please give my sympathy to your wife and family for what they have endured.

“May I also say how very much I admire the statement which you have issued. It is very courageous and I am sure will help to steady the Northern Ireland Civil Service, who do such remarkable service for the community.

“While I know you will want it to be business as usual, I hope that you will find a way to take a few days off at least.”

A note from J Hamilton in the press office to the Secretary of State on the day of the attack reflected a senior official’s conversation with Sir Ken.

It said: “Sir Kenneth and his family have been released from hospital. According to police at the scene there were four devices, two of which exploded.

“It is estimated that both of these devices consisted of 20lbs of Semtex.

“A third device, also of 20lbs of Semtex, was defused and a fourth is being worked on at the moment.”