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Cablegate: Northern Ireland - Controlling the Violence

R 091735Z AUG 88
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 8426
INFO AMEMBASSY DUBLIN
NATO COLLECTIVE
SECDEF WASHDC
JCS WASHDC
DIRFBI WASHDC
USNMR SHAPE BE//INTAFF/SPACOS//
USCINCEUR VAIHINGEN GE//POLAD/J5//
CINCUSAFE RAMSTEIN AB GE//POLAD//
CINCUSAREUR HEIDELBERG GE//POLAD//
USDOCOSOUTH NAPLES IT//INTAFF//
USCINCLANT NORFOLK VA//POLAD//
CINCUSNAVEUR LONDON UK//POLAD//
AMCONSUL BELFAST POUCH)
AMCONSUL EDINBURGH POUCH)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 LONDON 16998

TERREP

E.O. 12356: DECL: OADR
TAGS: KPRP PTER PGOV MARR MCAP UK EI
SUBJECT: NORTHERN IRELAND - CONTROLLING THE VIOLENCE

REF: A) LONDON 16351 B) LONDON 5653

1. CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT.

2. SUMMARY: THE RECENT ESCALATION OF IRA ATTACKS,
WHICH HAVE INCLUDED NOT ONLY MORE KILLINGS IN NORTHERN
IRELAND BUT ALSO BOMBINGS AT UK MILITARY BASES IN
CONTINENTAL EUROPE AND THE FIRST BOMBING IN BRITAIN
ITSELF SINCE 1984, HAVE CAUSED HMG TO REEXAMINE ITS
EFFORTS TO CONTROL IRA TERRORISM. THE INITIAL PROGNOSIS
BY OFFICIALS IN LONDON IS THAT THERE IS NOT A GREAT DEAL
MORE THAT CAN BE DONE IN THE SHORT TERM OTHER THAN TO
INCREASE ALERT LEVELS AND OTHER PRECAUTIONS AGAINST
TERRORIST ATTACKS AT MILITARY INSTALLATIONS, KEY
GOVERNMENT OFFICES, AND OTHER LIKELY IRA TARGETS.

THE IRA MIGHT BE PLANNING ATTACKS DIRECTLY AGAINST OR TO
COINCIDE WITH CERTAIN UPCOMING EVENTS, INCLUDING THE
BEGINNING OF THE CORONER'S INQUEST IN GIBRLATAR INTO THE
KILLING THERE OF THREE IRA TERRORISTS LAST JANUARY, AND
THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY CONFERENCE AT BRIGHTON IN OCTOBER.

THE ATTACKS HAVE NOT WEAKENED THE GOVERNMENT'S RESOLVE
TO CONTINUE WITH ITS CURRENT POLICIES, WHICH INCLUDE
TRYING TO RECTIFY CATHOLIC GRIEVANCES IN NORTHERN
IRELAND. THERE HAVE BEEN NEW DEMANDS TO INCREASE UK
MILITARY FORCES IN ULSTER AND TO REINTRODUCE THE
PREVENTIVE INTERNMENT OF KNOWN IRA ACTIVISTS; THE
GOVERNMENT HOPES THESE STEPS WILL NOT BE NECESSARY AND
FOR NOW HAS NO SUCH PLANS.

UK OFFICIALS ARE PLEASED WITH PROGRESS IN GAINING THE
COOPERATION OF THE GOVERNMENT IN DUBLIN IN THE FIGHT
AGAINST THE IRA, BUT ALSO ARE CONVINCED THAT THE IRISH
REPUBLIC COULD DO MORE TO HELP. PERHAPS THE SHOCK OF
THE CURRENT WAVE OF ATTACKS, SAYS HMG, WILL ACCELERATE
THE IMPROVEMENT IN SECURITY COOPERATION BETWEEN THE TWO
GOVERNMENTS. LONDON HOPES THAT IMPROVED INTRA-EUROPEAN
COOPERATION IN COMBATTING TERRORISM WILL HELP TO
MINIMIZE THE EFFECTIVENESS OF IRA ATTACKS ON BRITISH
MILITARY FORCES STATIONED IN EUROPE.

END SUMMARY.

THE IRA PLAYS TO THE NEWS AND CHALLENGES LONDON TO REACT
--------------------------------------------- -----------
3. THE RECENT ESCALATION OF TERRORIST ATTACKS BY THE
IRA, INCLUDING BOMBINGS OF UK MILITARY TARGETS IN
CONTINENTAL EUROPE AND THE FIRST IRA BOMBING IN BRITAIN
ITSELF IN FOUR YEARS, HAS REFOCUSED ATTENTIONS IN
WHITEHALL ON THE PROBLEM OF CONTROLLING IRA TERRORISM.
WHAT THE KILLINGS BY THE IRA HAVE NOT DONE IS UNDERMINE
EITHER THE THATCHER GOVERNMENT'S RESOLVE TO STICK TO ITS
POLICIES ON NORTHERN IRELAND OR THE CONSERVATIVE
POLITICAL CONSENSUS BEHIND THOSE POLICIES.

4. THE NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE AND HMG POLICE OFFICIALS
CALCULATE THAT THE IRA PLANS ITS ATTACKS MAINLY FOR NEWS
VALUE. SPOKESMEN FOR THE IRA AND ITS POLITICAL WING,
SINN FEIN, HAVE CONFIRMED THIS IN RECENT INTERVIEWS WITH
JOURNALISTS. THE IRA WANTS ITS ATTACKS TO SHOCK THE
PUBLIC IN BRITAIN AND WEAR DOWN BRITISH DETERMINATION TO
STAY IN NORTHERN IRELAND. THE UK SUNDAY NEWSPAPER "THE
OBSERVER" REPORTED ON AUGUST 7 THAT IRA SOURCES TOLD ITS
REPORTERS THE AUGUST 1 BOMBING OF AN ARMY DEPOT IN
LONDON (REFTEL A) WAS UNDERTAKEN ON THE BORDER OF PRIME
MINISTER THATCHER'S OWN PARLIAMENTARY CONSTITUENCY WITH
THE HOPES THAT IT WOULD KILL MANY SOLDIERS (ONE DIED IN
THE BLAST) AND FORCE MRS. THATCHER TO RETURN EARLY FROM
HER AUSTRALIA VISIT.

5. THE BOMBINGS HAVE EMBARASSED THE GOVERNMENT BUT NOT
NEARLY SO MUCH AS THE IRA APPARENTLY WOULD LIKE. SO
FAR, IT HAS STIFFENED RATHER THAN WEAKENED LONDON'S
RESOLVE. AND, WHILE THE KILLINGS HAVE SCORED INTENSIVE
NEWS COVERAGE, THEY PROBABLY HAVE NOT INCREASED
SIGNIFICANTLY THE NUMBERS OF BRITONS WHO AGREE WITH THE
"TIME TO GO" MOVEMENT FOR A BRITISH WITHDRAWAL FROM
ULSTER. THERE HAVE BEEN SIGNS THAT MANY ORDINARY
CITIZENS DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY MILITARY INSTALLATIONS
AND OTHER POTENTIAL TERRORIST TARGETS CANNOT BE
PROTECTED BETTER. IN UK TELEVISION INTERVIEWS, SEVERAL
PEOPLE WHO LIVE NEAR THE NORTH LONDON ARMY BASE ATTACKED
ON AUGUST 1 SAID THEY HAD ALWAYS BEEN AMAZED THAT
SECURITY WAS SO LAX AT THE BASE. BUT MANY OTHER
BRITONS, EVEN WHILE THEY WINCE AT EACH DAY'S TALLY OF
BOMBING VICTIMS, DO NOT EXPECT THEIR GOVERNMENT TO BE
ABLE TO FEND OFF TERRORISTS EVERY TIME. THEY APPEAR TO
UNDERSTAND, AS EX-PRIME MINISTER STANLEY BALDWIN TOLD
THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IN 1932, THAT DESPITE ANY
PRECAUTIONS "THE BOMBER WILL ALWAYS GET THROUGH."

THE ESCALATION WAS EXPECTED
---------------------------
6. SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND TOM KING
DECLARED IN LATE JULY THAT THE IRA WAS BECOMING
INCREASINGLY "INCOMPETENT," AS EVIDENCED BY A SERIES OF
BUNGLED ATTACKS IN NORTHERN IRELAND IN WHICH INNOCENT
BYSTANDERS WERE KILLED OR INJURED INSTEAD OF MEMBERS OF
THE SECURITY FORCES. THE RECENT ESCALATION OF KILLINGS
CAME SO FAST AFTER KING'S STATEMENT AS TO SEEM PROMPTED
BY IT. THE NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE (NIO) TOLD US THAT
KING'S PRONOUNCEMENT WAS OVERLY OPTIMISTIC AND WAS NOT
REFLECTED IN ANY RELAXATION OF VIGILANCE BY THE POLICE
AND MILITARY FORCES. SECURITY OFFICIALS HAVE KNOWN THE
IRA WAS MERELY PAUSING AND WAS OVERDUE FOR A COME-BACK.

7. NIO OFFICIALS BELIEVE THAT EVER SINCE UK SECURITY
FORCES REVEALED THEIR PENETRATION OF IRA COMMUNICATIONS
WHEN THEY KILLED EIGHT IRA TERRORISTS IN MAY 1987 AT
LOUGHGALL, NORTHERN IRELAND, THE IRA HAS BEEN HOLDING
BACK WHILE IT CHANGED ITS METHODS. THE TERRORISTS HAVE
AMASSED TONS OF ARMAMENTS, CHIEFLY FROM LIBYA, BUT HAVE
BEEN FEELING THEIR WAY WITH NEW PROCEDURES FOR MAKING
AND COMMUNICATING DECISIONS. THE KILLING OF CIVILIAN
BYSTANDERS AT ENNISKILLEN IN DECEMBER OF LAST YEAR AND
IN SEVERAL OTHER APPARENTLY BUNGLED IRA ATTACKS SINCE
THEN PROBABLY WAS DUE IN PART TO A DECENTRALIZATION OF
IRA DECISION-MAKING. TO AVOID LEAKS AND INTERCEPTS,
LOCAL IRA UNITS WERE TOLD TO OPERATE INDEPENDENTLY. SAS
AND POLICE SPECIAL BRANCH UNITS HAVE EXCELLENT
INTELLIGENCE SOURCES WHICH THE IRA CORRECTLY ASSUMES
INCLUDE "MOLES" IN ITS OWN RANKS. THE SAFETY WARNING
FOR THE IRA, AND THE BOAST OF UK AUTHORITIES, IS THAT IN
NORTHERN IRELAND "EVERY TREE HAS ITS SPECIAL BRANCH."

8. AFTER MORE THAN HALF A YEAR OF PREPARATIONS, UK
OFFICIALS TOLD US, THE IRA PLANNED A SERIES OF ATTACKS
WHICH WAS TO INCLUDE THE GIBRALTAR BOMBING IN JANUARY.
THE FAILURE OF THAT ATTACK (REFTEL B) AND THE REVELATION
THAT ONCE AGAIN UK SECURITY OFFICIALS WERE AWARE OF ITS
PLANS PROBABLY CAUSED THE IRA TO DELAY OR DEFER OTHER
ATTACKS. IT WENT AHEAD WITH BOMBINGS DIRECTED AGAINST
UK MILITARY PERSONNEL IN OTHER COUNTRIES OF EUROPE,
APPARENTLY SECURE IN THE BELIEF THAT AT LEAST ONE
"ACTIVE SERVICE UNIT" EMPLACED TO OPERATE IN GERMANY AND
THE NETHERLANDS HAD NOT BEEN DETECTED BY EITHER UK OR
LOCAL SECURITY OFFICIALS. WHATEVER ATTACKS HAD BEEN
PLANNED IN BRITAIN ITSELF PROBABLY WERE JUDGED TO BE
MORE RISKY AND WERE DELAYED AGAIN, BUT UK AUTHORITIES
WERE CONVINCED THEY WOULD OCCUR EVENTUALLY.

9. UK SECURITY OFFICIALS KNEW OF MANY IRA MEMBERS AND
SYMPATHIZERS IN BRITAIN AND WATCHED THEM AS CLOSELY AS
POSSIBLE. BUT WHEN THE ATTACK CAME IN NORTH LONDON ON
AUGUST 1 IT WAS BY A "SLEEPER," AN INDIVIDUAL OR A UNIT
OF THE IRA NOT KNOWN BY SPECIAL BRANCH TO BE IN ENGLAND
AND READY FOR AN ATTACK HERE. THERE MIGHT BE, OF
COURSE, OTHER TERRORISTS IN BRITAIN PREPARING FOR
ADDITIONAL ATTACKS. MINISTRY OF DEFENSE CONTACTS TOLD
US THAT A GREAT MANY DEFENSE INSTALLATIONS HERE ARE
"SOFT TARGETS" SUCH AS RECRUITING OFFICES AND URBAN
DEPOTS WHERE IT IS NOT FEASIBLE TO INCREASE SECURITY
PRECAUTIONS SIGNIFICANTLY. IF A WELL-TRAINED IRA UNIT
IS POISED AND EQUIPPED FOR ANOTHER ATTACK, SAID THE MOD,
IT COULD WELL FIND ITS MARK.

INTERNMENT FOR THE IRA IN ULSTER?
---------------------------------
10. WHILE THERE MAY NOT BE MUCH MORE BY WAY OF
PRECAUTIONS THAT CAN BE TAKEN IN BRITAIN, THE SITUATION
IS DIFFERENT IN NORTHERN IRELAND. SOME BACKBENCH
CONSERVATIVE MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT HAVE REACTED TO THE
RECENT ATTACKS HERE AND IN ULSTER BY DEMANDING THE
REINTRODUCTION OF INTERNMENT, THE IMPRISONMENT WITHOUT
TRIAL OR FORMAL CHARGES IN COURT OF KNOWN MEMBERS OF THE
IRA AND OTHER VIOLENT GROUPS, BOTH CATHOLIC AND
PROTESTANT.

11. INTERNMENT WAS ADOPTED IN AUGUST 1971 WHEN 450
MEMBERS OF THE IRA WERE ROUNDED UP BY THE ARMY AND
POLICE IN NORTHERN IRELAND IN "OPERATION DEMETRIUS."
100 OF THOSE ARRESTED HAD TO BE RELEASED BECAUSE OF
INSUFFICIENT INTELLIGENCE TO BE CERTAIN OF THE CHARGES
AGAINST THEM, SO THAT THE COMMAND STRUCTURE OF THE IRA
APPARENTLY WAS LEFT INTACT. OPPONENTS OF INTERNMENT NOW
CONCEDE THAT CURRENT INTELLIGENCE IS SO MUCH BETTER THAT
A NEW ROUND-UP PROBABLY WOULD SUCCEED IN GREATLY
DISRUPTING IRA PLANS. TOM KING SAID RECENTLY THAT THE
OPTION OF INTERNMENT REMAINS "UNDER REVIEW," BUT OUR
CONTACTS IN GOVERNMENT TOLD US THAT IRA ATTACKS WOULD
HAVE TO BE FAR MORE SERIOUS FOR THE OPTION TO BE
CHOSEN. HMG KNOWS THAT ADOPTING INTERNMENT WOULD BE A
PROPAGANDA VICTORY AND A RECRUITMENT BOON FOR THE IRA.
ALSO, INTERNMENT VERY LIKELY WOULD NOT WORK UNLESS IT
WAS ADOPTED SIMULTANEOUSLY BY THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND,
WHICH UK OFFICIALS REGARD AS EXTREMELY UNLIKELY.

THE UK WANTS MORE HELP FROM IRELAND
-----------------------------------
12. UK OFFICIALS BELIEVE THAT ONE KEY TO SUCCESS IN THE
WAR AGAINST IRA TERRORISM IS IMPROVED SECURITY
COOPERATION WITH THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND. THEY THINK
THAT DUBLIN HAS NOT YET FELT COMPELLED TO PUT ITS WEIGHT
FULLY AGAINST THE TERRORISTS IN PART BECAUSE THE IRA,
EVEN THOUGH IT DECLARES THE DUBLIN GOVERNMENT IS
"ILLEGAL" AND THAT THE IRISH POLICE AND MILITARY ARE
LEGITIMATE TARGETS FOR ATTACK, HAS WISELY REFRAINED FROM
ENDANGERING ITS SANCTUARY ON THE IRISH SIDE OF THE
BORDER BY ATTACKING THE REPUBLIC'S OFFICIALS AND ARMED
FORCES THERE.

13. THERE WERE EVENTS IN 1987 WHICH EMBARRASSED THE
DUBLIN GOVERNMENT INTO GREATER ACTION, SAY UK OFFICIALS,
SUCH AS THE CAPTURE OF THE ARMS SHIP EKSUND AND THE
REVELATION THEREFROM THAT THE IRA HAD BEEN IMPORTING
LARGE QUANTITIES OF ARMS FROM LIBYA INTO IRELAND TO BE
USED AGAINST FORCES IN NORTHERN IRELAND. THE SUBSEQUENT
FAILURE OF THE INTENSIVE EFFORT OF IRISH FORCES IN
"OPERATION MALLARD" TO FIND MANY OF THOSE ARMAMENTS, AND
THE PROLONGED INABILITY OF THE IRISH POLICE IN LATE 1987
TO CAPTURE THE RENEGADE EX-IRA MEMBER AND RAMPANT
CRIMINAL DESI O'HARE, THE POPULARLY STYLED "BORDER FOX,"
EMBARRASSED IRELAND AND ITS SECURITY FORCES STILL MORE.
NIO OFFICIALS TOLD US THEY BELIEVE IT IS MORE USEFUL NOW
TO USE EACH ADDITIONAL IRA ATTACK, AND THE PRESUMPTION
THAT THE IRA TRAVELS RELATIVELY FREELY IN THE REPUBLIC
AND HAS MUNITIONS STORED THERE, AS ARGUMENTS TO PROD
DUBLIN INTO MORE COOPERATION.

14. AT A RECENT EC MEETING IN HANOVER MRS. THATCHER
ONCE AGAIN CONFRONTED IRISH PRIME MINISTER HAUGHEY OVER
THE NEED FOR DUBLIN TO BE MORE HELPFUL. ACCORDING TO
CABINET SOURCES HERE, HAUGHEY CONCEDED THAT IRELAND'S
POLICE AND MILITARY DO NOT HAVE THE CAPABILITY TO
COOPERATE FULLY WITH BRITISH FORCES IN STOPPING THE
IRA. IN RESPONSE TO THATCHER'S OFFER TO EITHER EXTEND
BRITISH ASSISTANCE IN THE FORM OF TRAINING AND EQUIPMENT
OR TO ARRANGE SUCH ASSISTANCE FROM OTHER COUNTRIES IF
NECESSARY, HAUGHEY PROMISED HIS GOVERNMENT WOULD
REASSESS THE NEED FOR TRAINING AND OTHER SECURITY
IMPROVEMENTS.

NO END IN SIGHT
---------------
15. HMG OFFICIALS REGARD THE NORTHERN IRELAND PROBLEM
AS A PERENNIAL IRRITANT WHICH WILL NOT GO AWAY IN THE
FORESEEABLE FUTURE. NO ONE WILL FIND A SOLOMONIC WAY TO
SATISFY THE CONTRADICTORY DEMANDS OF UNIONISTS AND
REPUBLICANS. THE PERCEIVED GRIEVANCES OF BOTH SIDES
WILL CONTINUE TO GENERATE CONFLICT. WITH NO NEAR-TERM
SOLUTION IN SIGHT, THE PRINCIPAL GOALS OF GOVERNMENT ARE
TO KEEP VIOLENCE DOWN TO TOLERABLE LEVELS IN NORTHERN
IRELAND, STOP THE SPREAD OF IRA ATTACKS TO BRITAIN AND
ELSEWHERE, AND RECTIFY THOSE OF THE GRIEVANCES
UNDERLYING THE CONFLICT WHICH ARE LEGITIMATE.

16. THE GOVERNMENT IN LONDON BELIEVES THAT CONTINUED
IRA TERRORISM IS INEVITABLE. THEY LIKE TO POINT OUT,
HOWEVER, THAT THE VIOLENCE IN NORTHERN IRELAND, EVEN
WITH THE RECENT ESCALATION, IS VERY MUCH LESS THAN IN
THE PEAK YEAR 1972 AND IN MOST INTERVENING YEARS. UK
OFFICIALS ARE CONFIDENT THEY CAN KEEP THE KILLINGS IN
ULSTER TO NOT MUCH MORE THAN CURRENT LEVELS WITHOUT ANY
INCREASE IN SECURITY FORCES THERE. IRA ATTACKS IN
BRITAIN ITSELF AND IN EUROPE ARE A DIFFERENT MATTER.
COUNTER-TERRORISM TIES AND COOPERATION AMONG EUROPEAN
COUNTRIES HAS IMPROVED DRAMATICALLY IN RECENT YEARS, AND
THE UK IS CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC THAT THE IRA CAN BE HELD
IN CHECK OUTSIDE OF NORTHERN IRELAND EVEN THOUGH ATTACKS
WILL CONTINUE TO OCCUR.

17. THERE ARE MANY EVENTS IN NORTHERN IRELAND WHICH
MIGHT BRING IRA ATTACKS, SUCH AS THE FIFTH ANNIVERSARY
OF THE MAZE PRISON ESCAPES ON SEPTEMBER 25 AND SEVERAL
DIFFERENT DAYS WHEN CATHOLIC OR PROTESTANT ORGANIZATIONS
WILL BE HAVING PUBLIC MARCHES. IN ADDITION, THERE ARE
SEVERAL UPCOMING EVENTS AND ANNIVERSARIES WHICH COULD BE
CONSIDERED AS POSSIBLE PERIODS OF INCREASED THREAT OF
IRA TERRORIST ATTACK IN BRITAIN AND EUROPE. PROMINENT
AMONG THEM ARE:

-- THE BEGINNING, NOW SCHEDULED FOR SEPTEMBER 6, OF THE
INQUEST BY THE GIBRALTAR CORONER INTO THE KILLING OF
THREE IRA TERRORISTS THERE LAST JANUARY.

-- THE ANNUAL CONSERVATIVE PARTY CONFERENCE, OCTOBER
11-14. THE CONFERENCE WILL BE AT BRIGHTON THIS YEAR,
THE SAME PLACE WHERE AN IRA BOMB CAME CLOSE TO KILLING
MARGARET THATCHER AND A MAJOR PART OF HER CABINET DURING
THE PARTY CONFERENCE IN 1984.

-- 1989 WILL MARK THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF BOTH THE
INTRODUCTION OF BRITISH TROOPS INTO NORTHERN IRELAND AND
THE CREATION OF THE PROVISIONAL IRA. 1989 COULD BE A
BAD YEAR FOR COMMEMORATIVE TERRORISM.

PRICE

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