Irish and British security forces – including intelligence services – had developed much better working relationships by 1994, according to newly-declassified government files.
Documents released at the Public Record Office in Belfast under the 20 year rule include a restricted 10 February 1994 memo from JA Dew in the British Embassy in Dublin which relayed details of a lunch conversation with Garda Assistant Commissioner Ned O’Dea and his intelligence deputy, whose name has been blacked out from the document.
According to the diplomat’s account, the two officers “spoke in very warm terms about their operational links with the RUC”, saying that although formal meetings between the forces had been important to foster cooperation, there was now “an extensive network of individuals in each force who trusted each other fully: that was how they liked to work”.
Referring to the “state of debate within the Provisional movement”, the memo said that the Irish policemen were “fairly non-committal about their own assessment” and that they “had to go on hard evidence, and implied they had little”.
It went on: “But they thought Adams had undertaken a very difficult task, and would not go for acceptance/cessation of violence without at least 80% of the movement.
“He was unlikely to get this in the immediate future. They believed the RUC assessment was much the same. The hard line republican rank and file in the north would not change their engrained outlook so quickly: the leadership had had months to accustom themselves to change.”
The two men “stressed that it was essential to keep up the pressure, and to avoid any let out for the Provisionals: give them enough rope and let them hang themselves.
“That way public opinion would overwhelmingly isolate them, in a way it had never done in Ireland before.”
Alluding to their own intelligence-gathering abilities within Sinn Féin, the two Irish police officers said that there would be “some kind of move” at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in Tallaght at the end of the month and “they [the Garda] would have their own inside coverage”.
In a 1993 end of year dispatch from Dublin, the British Ambassador to the Republic, Sir David Blatherwick. was positive about security contacts. The confidential annual review, which was sent to the Foreign Office in Whitehall and to the NIO, described 1993 as “a good year for British interests in the Republic”.
Sir David, a former NIO official, said that “the key relationships, between the Garda, the RUC and the security forces in Britain, are close but politically sensitive” and he had “no doubt about the Government’s or the Garda’s determination to tackle the IRA: their main handicap is their small resource base in the Republic.
“Contacts with the Irish Army continue to be more sensitive still.”
He said that “the only real disappointment is Irish failure so far to enact promised extradition legislation”.
However, he said that the final negotiation of the Downing Street Declaration was “complicated by revelations of HMG’s contacts with the IRA throughout 1993 over ending the violence.
“The Irish believed the had been made to look fools, and were shocked as well as angry. In a flurry of press leaks, and with blood pressure high on all sides, we were railroaded.”