Belfast Telegraph

State Papers revealed: Blowing up border roads proved costly for everybody

By Rebecca Black

Closing border roads using explosives during the Troubles would distress and harm local residents, officials feared.

There were more than 200 roads cross the border. Many were destroyed for security reasons by the Army and police in the 1970s and 1980s in an attempt to thwart paramilitaries who used them as crossing points.

However, the destruction of the routes raised many complaints from people on both sides of the frontier.

The UK Government was forced to pay out hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation to Irish citizens whose property had been damaged by the blasts.

A previously confidential memo written by an NIO official said that resuming the use of explosives was likely to result in more claims.

"The previous use of explosives led to a large number of claims and, in 1983, HMG paid the Irish Government IR£600,000 in settlement of claims that had been processed through the Irish courts," the memo said.

"My assumption therefore is that, as we agreed to pay up in the past - although HMG did not accept formal liability - we would have to do so now.

"Certainly that would be the Irish Government's expectation, and I see no way of doing otherwise.

"ACC Border is anxious to press ahead with the reclosure of BCP (border crossing point) 98 as soon as possible, and I am reluctant to delay that operation while we sort out the detail of compensation arrangements.

"At this point, therefore, my aim is to do no more than to secure the Minister's agreement in principle that HMG should underwrite the relevant costs in some form or other.

"We have already begun to turn our minds to how the compensation arrangements should work, assuming that the Minister agrees that HMG should pay.

"We are not starting from cold. As you may recall, SIL (Security and International Division London) gave thought to the handling of future claims back in 1984.

"I have not so far forgotten my SIL training as to forget that, even if we cross their palms with punts, the Irish may still be unhappy in principle.

"But I do not believe, if the money is right, the political arguments should be decisive.

"In any case argument on security grounds seems overwhelming: not only in terms of controlling the border, but also in terms of not obstructing the security forces when they are seeking to protect their own personnel."

The RUC also proposed using explosives at BCP 106, 107A, 176 and 229.

The NIO raised concerns that from the 1970s locals had taken to filling in craters with material to repair the damage to get the road back in action.

"As I recall from the 1970s groups of locals were fully capable of filling in craters with hardcore and surface material to repair the damage in operations quite like the present stunts staged by 'community associations'," the memo read.

"Are we to envisage an escalation of the struggle between security forces and these groups, rather than its termination?"

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