Secretary of State Sir Patrick Mayhew bluntly reminded Irish ministers he knew the precise security risks in Northern Ireland all too well as his son was serving with the Army here.
He also described the IRA as “a damned nuisance” in previously classified files held in the Irish state archive in Dublin.
“I know the situation,” Sir Patrick told Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and Irish Justice Minister Padraig Flynn at a meeting in Admiralty House in London on September 25, 1992. The briefing was also attended by Prime Minister John Major.
Sir Patrick stressed that he was the first politician who actually wanted to serve as Northern Ireland Secretary — and stressed that he had strong Irish connections and was very positive of the work being undertaken by the two Governments.
But he insisted to the Irish ministers that he had personal experience of the threat faced by security officials in Northern Ireland from paramilitaries.
“I have a son myself with the Army in Northern Ireland. The IRA removed the (Cloghoge guard) post (with a bomb) and we were told definitely that it was necessary to restore it.
“The IRA ‘removed’ it at the cost of the life of a very brave soldier. I had unequivocal advice from the Chief Constable that it was necessary to restore it.
“Of course it is a desperate presentation that it should be close to the school. Fortunately, the Sisters of Mercy Grammar School in Newry has been made available as a new school and it is much better.”
Sir Patrick said they had to act on the advice of security professionals. “They (the IRA) are a damned nuisance. I agree it could have been handled better.”
In the memo, Sir Patrick also paid particular thanks to Mr Flynn, the Irish Justice Minister, for his support on key security initiatives.
“I have said it before and I say it again — I very much appreciate the stance that Padraig Flynn has taken. Security co-operation was never better. I met the RUC Chief Superintendent in Strabane recently and he was very warm in his account of co-operation with the Gardaí. The military also.”
Sir Patrick reinforced the opinion of Mr Major that security co-operation between the UK and the Republic had improved significantly over recent years.
However, the scale of the IRA bombing campaign in England, particularly in London, underlined the threat they still posed.
UK officials were also acutely aware of the potential threat posed by the arms supplied to the Ireland over more than a decade by Libya.
This included some of the most high-tech Soviet Bloc weaponry the Libyans had been able to secure from Moscow — and ranged from Kalashnikov assault rifles to SAM missiles and anti-tank mines. Over 1.5 million rounds of ammunition for assault rifles and heavy machine guns was supplied.