Northern Ireland’s top civil servant suggested “doing nothing” to tackle loyalist violence to teach unionists that it “does not pay”, according to secret files just released under Dublin’s 30- year rule.
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, who went on to become the Province’s victims commissioner, told Irish officials during a confidential meeting in April 1986 that a “completely logical line of action” amid increasing unrest would be no action at all.
There was a ferocious unionist backlash at the time to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
“The situation in the North is becoming more serious by the week,” he said, according to notes of his meeting with senior Anglo-Irish negotiators at Government Buildings in Dublin.
“The petrol bombing and attacks on police houses are particularly worrying.”
Sir Kenneth said senior politicians were “becoming more concerned daily”.
He suggested: “One alternative would be to look to a long campaign of violence and attrition – doing nothing and bringing home to the unionists that this sort of action just does not pay.
“There may be arguments for this, which could be a completely logical line of action.”
But he added: “On the other hand, there are arguments now for discussions, which could bring constitutional politics back into the picture again.”
He went on to say: “There is much to be said for encouraging dialogues within Northern Ireland among the political parties.”
Sir Kenneth was head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service at the time.