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IRA targeted Princess Margaret for 'calling Irish people pigs'

By Claire McNeilly

Princess Margaret became a target for the IRA 40 years ago after she branded Irish people "pigs", it has been claimed.

A biography of the Queen's sister, who was 71 years old when she died in 2002, reveals the Provisionals plotted to kill her for a remark she is said to have made during an official visit to America in 1979.

Referring to a reception in Chicago, the book says the city's mayor Jane Byrne and the princess were discussing the recent assassination of her cousin, Lord Mountbatten.

He died along with three others when the IRA remotely detonated a bomb on his fishing boat while on a trip out of Mullaghmore in Co Sligo two months earlier.

Following the high-profile US event, it was reported in the press that, during that conversation, Princess Margaret said: "The Irish, they're pigs."

Reports of her alleged remark sparked fury in Ireland and among Irish-Americans, who staged angry protests throughout the remainder of her American tour.

Her spokesman, Lord Nigel Napier, vehemently denied that she had ever made the comment, saying: "There is no truth in the allegation whatsoever." For her part, Mayor Byrne insisted that Princess Margaret had merely been misquoted, adding: "Somebody overheard Irish jigs and changed it a bit."

However, the author of the biography, Christopher Warwick, said that few Irish republicans believed the denials and he revealed that US law enforcement believed that the IRA then hatched a plan to kill Margaret.

"According to intelligence received from London, an IRA plot to assassinate Princess Margaret had been uncovered," he said.

Security around the princess was tightened when she visited Los Angeles a week later, where she encountered angry Irish-American protesters.

"The number of secret service agents was immediately doubled," Warwick said, with police snipers on rooftops and bulletproof armour added to her limousine.

The FBI launched a search for a suspected IRA assassin - nicknamed The Jackal, after the hitman in the Frederick Forsyth best-seller The Day Of The Jackal.

The LAPD raided a motel room where they believed the IRA gunman was staying, but it was found to be empty.

Princess Margaret was unfazed, however, despite ongoing protests by groups including Action for Irish Rights, which took a pig's head on a plate to a fashion show she was attending.

Mr Warwick added: "Despite alarming repercussions, the tour continued."

No attempt on her life materialised and Margaret arrived safely back in the UK a few days later.

But, two years later, a planned visit by the princess to Washington DC was cancelled on the advice of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher amid fears for her safety.

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