Belfast Telegraph

State papers: MP wanted Catholic Church to excommunicate IRA members

By Cate McCurry

The Northern Ireland Assembly speaker suggested that the Church should excommunicate IRA members in a bid to limit their funerals to "modest affairs", state papers in Dublin have said.

The call by Unionist MP Jim Kilfedder came days after Army corporals Derek Wood and David Howes were beaten and shot dead by a mob after they drove into an IRA funeral in March 1988.

The two soldiers were surrounded by the crowd when they joined the funeral cortege of Caoimhin Mac Bradaigh, an IRA man killed in Milltown Cemetery by the loyalist Michael Stone while attending the funerals of the three IRA members shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar.

The double killings provoked outrage among MPs at Westminster. A memo written by an Irish Government official following a debate in the House of Commons about the murders said that Mr Kilfedder raised the possibility of a Church excommunication of IRA terrorists, which "might in consequence reduce their funerals to very modest affairs".

Moments before the two corporals were dragged from their car Wood drew his pistol and fired a warning into the air, but it did not deter the crowd from surrounding the vehicle.

Former DUP leader Peter Robinson suggested that the soldiers had refrained from opening fire because of fear of repercussions.

"He had asked the Secretary of State (Tom King) to make clear that he would stand behind any members of the security forces who had to defend their lives in such circumstances," the Irish official said in the memo.

It also emerged from the state papers that the British Joint Secretary told an Irish Government official there was a prospect of a public controversy "looming between the RUC and ITN and BBC" over RUC access to the television tapes of the killings.

Many broadcast networks that were covering the funeral refused to hand over the footage to the RUC, saying it would endanger the lives of journalists.

"He said that ITN had agreed to give the RUC access while the BBC had refused (and was also expressing scepticism about ITN's alleged readiness to comply)," he wrote.

"I understand from him that the RTE office here have also been asked for their tapes and have adopted the BBC line.

"I have said I assumed the matter was one for RTE and expressed the hope that the public controversy he foresaw would not present the matter in any way as a British-Irish issue."

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