Mountbatten murder shook US senator’s support for IRA

The body of Lord Mountbatten is brought ashore after his murder by the IRA in August 1979
The body of Lord Mountbatten is brought ashore after his murder by the IRA in August 1979

A Democratic senator described as “key” by British officials told the Secretary of State that he had been instinctively sympathetic towards the IRA but was “shaken” by the murder of Lord Mountbatten, a declassified government file records.

Senator Claiborne Pell, a Democratic member of the Foreign Relations Committee (who the following year would become chairman of the influential committee), met the Secretary of State during his visit to the US in May 1986.

A note of the meeting said: “Senator Pell argued that the US had been born out of a rebellion and therefore was naturally sympathetic towards political fugitives; and [in discussing a proposed extradition treaty] he argued that extradition of Irishmen could be extended by analogy to demands that members of the contras be extradited to Nicaragua.

“However, the murder of Lord Mountbatten had shaken him and caused him to moderate his views.”

Lord Mountbatten, who was Prince Philip’s uncle, had been murdered by the IRA in Co Sligo seven years earlier.

More from the declassified files

RUC’s reluctance to remove DUP protestors alarmed officials

Water charges necessary but ‘politically unacceptable’, say files

Top civil servant proposed all-Ireland anti-terror police force

Troops were on standby for two contentious 1986 Orange parades

Paisley condemned attacks on RUC after Robinson would not

NIO feared that Paisley might push for an independent NI

Fears over reintroducing juries for terrorism trials

DUP Assemblyman briefed against ‘cold and calculating’ Robinson

Allister ‘unmoved’ at prospect of 1986 Assembly collapse

Ex-UUP leader Harry West feared party could split

Dublin lobbied for Irish language ‘out of hatred for SF’

Peter Robinson urged US firms not to invest in Northern Ireland, says declassified file

DUP MP William McCrea wanted ‘Libya-type airstrikes’ against Dundalk and Drogheda

The attitudes and nature of the DUP are frightening, said head of the Civil Service

RUC tipped off the Garda about Robinson’s ‘invasion’ of Clontibret

In 1986, Paisley believed he’d never be in another Stormont

Stormont Speaker reacted with fury when officials queried his questionable hospitality claims

Video: Archivist says Stormont politicians can’t block declassification of files