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Briefing reveals border key weapon in IRA arsenal

By David O'Dornan

A government briefing paper from the mid-1990s detailed the importance of the border to the IRA.

It was prepared ahead of then Prime Minister John Major holding talks with his Irish counterpart Albert Reynolds.

The note from February 26, 1995 set out IRA activity in the Republic.

It said: "It is common ground that PIRA use the Republic for developing and manufacturing improvised weapons, for training terrorists in their use, and for stockpiling weapons, ammunition and explosives, particularly the large shipments from Libya which arrived in 1985 and 1986.

"The RUC and Garda agree that it is PIRA policy to retain in the north only those munitions they need to meet immediate operational requirements.

"A joint RUC/Garda Assessment submitted to the January 28 meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference stated that: Seizures of munitions under the control of Northern Command PIRA ... confirm that large stock-piles are not held by them. They only retain a sufficient quantity to meet their immediate requirements.

"It is assessed that a large portion of the (Libyan shipments not already seized or controlled by Northern Command), which includes large stocks of AKM rifles, DSHK heavy machine-guns, general purpose machine-guns and SAM7 rockets and launchers, still remain in deep hides in the Republic of Ireland under the control of Southern Command."

The briefing document then takes aim at Sinn Fein as well.

It reads: "Sinn Fein exclude themselves from the political talks, while they are known to be associated with PIRA and refuse to condemn its activities.

"Although some recent statements apparently attempting to distance Sinn Fein from PIRA may be interesting straws in the wind, there is a long way to go.

"For one thing, we would wish to see an unequivocal condemnation of terrorism by Sinn Fein. For another, there is no sign in fact of any separation between the two organisations other than rhetorical.

"It is important to be firm about this position. If the wrong signals are sent to the Northern Ireland political parties the whole future of political dialogue could be jeopardised.

"PIRA do not at present face defeat militarily, as activity since the last summit on December 4 has amply confirmed.

"Nevertheless, they continue their internal debate. We must not try to put them off with incentives, which could destroy the whole political development process.

"At the same time, we are alive to this debate when we take steps which might be received as signals."

Belfast Telegraph


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