Belfast Telegraph

State papers: Garda leaked information on British ambassador's holiday in Kerry


Sir Nicholas Fenn planned a boating trip to Sneem in Co Kerry
Sir Nicholas Fenn planned a boating trip to Sneem in Co Kerry
Killed: Christopher Ewart-Biggs

By Cate McCurry

A document about a British ambassador's holiday was deliberately leaked by gardai and ended up in the IRA's possession, newly declassified state papers reveal.

The disclosure of Sir Nicholas Fenn's protection details during his boating trip to Sneem in Co Kerry was "not politically motivated", the papers also claimed.

The British ambassador to Ireland also queried whether Irish officials had described his excursion as "irresponsible".

Eamon O'Tuathail, the assistant secretary of the Anglo-Irish Section at the Department of Foreign Affairs, was told that Sir Robert Andrew, from the Northern Ireland Office, was seeking to discourage wedges being driven between the RUC and the Garda as a result.

The details emerge in Irish State papers released in Dublin under the 30-year rule.

In one confidential note an Irish Government official also stated that he believes Mr Fenn should have been forbidden what he described as a "typically troublesome and self-indulgent excursion". The official complained that the Department of Foreign Affairs was not informed about the trip.

In a separate note, Department of Foreign Affairs official Declan O'Donovan told British charge Robert Stimpson that the unauthorised disclosure was a deliberate one at low Garda level.

"It was not believed at this point that the document had passed to or through the hands of a subversive organisation as had been alleged," Mr O'Donovan added.

In a letter marked 'secret', Mr O'Tuathail wrote to Michael Lillis at the Anglo-Irish Secretariat in Belfast stating that the protection of the British ambassador has nothing to do with the Secretariat or the Northern Ireland Office.

"As so far as advising the ambassador not to undertake any particular trip is concerned, we rely and must rely on the security assessment of the Garda Siochana," Mr O'Tuathail added.

"Needless to say, a decision to make such a request to the ambassador carries its own implications about the capacity of the State to protect the ambassador in the exercise of his normal functions and therefore needs to be considered with particular care. I would add that it does not seem to me that 'forbidding' the British Ambassador to undertake a visit to any of the jurisdiction is language appropriate to the diplomatic relations of two friendly, democratic States."

During a later meeting between Mr Fenn and Mr O'Tuathail, the Irish official said that no one had used the words "irresponsible" over his boating activities.

The official said he ended the meeting by telling Mr Fenn that Irish Ministers wanted to see the ambassador leading an active social life but within the constraints that "unfortunately" were needed for his personal safety.

In 1976 the IRA murdered Britain's ambassador to Ireland Christopher Ewart-Biggs.

The envoy was blown up in his official car by a landmine just yards from his official home in south Dublin on July 21, 1976.

It happened just 12 days after he arrived in Dublin to take up the post.

The ambassador's driver Brian O'Driscoll survived the attack but was seriously injured.

At the time Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave said that "this atrocity fills all decent Irish people with a sense of shame".

Prime Minister James Callaghan also strongly condemned the assassins as a "common enemy whom we must destroy or be destroyed by".

Belfast Telegraph


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