Belfast Telegraph

Thatcher told Taoiseach of Semtex fears

By Staff Reporter

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher told Taoiseach Charles Haughey at a Madrid summit that "an awful lot of Semtex" was available to the IRA.

Her warning - revealed in secret Government files released in Dublin - came as the UK authorities struggled to cope with an aggressive republican bombing campaign.

Security officials were appalled at how much Semtex explosive the IRA had secured from Libya. Over the course of 1989, the IRA tried to launch bomb attacks at Mayobridge in Co Down, Deal Barracks in Kent, Colchester Barracks in Essex and even in Germany.

A total of 11 Royal Marine bandsmen were killed in the Deal attack, which involved a bomb so large that it resulted in the barracks collapsing.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Collins, in a meeting with US Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, said the IRA had obtained arms "in waves".

"The IRA have a lot of guns but they are very short of manpower. It is estimated that the value of the Eksund cargo (from Libya) was €25m," Mr Collins said on September 22, 1989.

In a secret briefing memo, Mrs Thatcher told Mr Haughey that the UK had "been very lucky" that several other IRA attacks had been foiled or aborted. It notes: "She said there was an awful lot of Semtex around."

Libyan Semtex was used in the 1987 Enniskillen bomb in which 12 people died, the Ballygawley bus bombing in 1988 which killed eight soldiers and the mortar attack at Downing Street in 1991.

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