Republican terrorists threatened to kill Social Security staff investigating benefit fraud, newly released files from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland have revealed.
Declassified records from April,1998 show that Mo Mowlam, the Secretary of State at the time, backed civil servant Doreen Brown’s recommendation “that a meeting between the Social Security Agency and the IRSP should be refused”.
That was because the associated military wing of the organisation — the INLA — had issued a death threat “against DHSS Fraud and Prosecution staff in Strabane by the Irish National Liberation Army” that “was reported in the Derry Journal”.
In her note to Ms Mowlam’s Permanent Secretary, she had recommended the “meeting should be refused” and cited “the context of threats being made against staff”.
A copy of the Derry Journal article was included in the file, which stated “the INLA has warned that it will kill DHSS fraud investigators operating in Strabane”.
In the statement issued to the newspaper they said: “We wish to state clearly that the activities of the DHSS fraud squad will not be tolerated. We demand that fraud squad investigators cease their activities in Strabane.
"We will take direct action against the fraud squad with immediate effect.”
Mrs Brown’s letter detailed the antics of the local republicans trying to flex terrorist muscles in order to avoid probes into benefit fraud.
She wrote: “The Strabane IRSP subsequently sent a fax to the Social Security Office in Strabane to ‘verify’ its ‘understanding’ that the threat from INLA was confined to recent ‘investigators drafted into Strabane’, not to other SSO workers or management.
“The fax went on to say that, ‘We are hopeful that common sense will prevail and that a meeting with Fraud Management will be forthcoming and put the IRSP in a situation where we can publicly or privately call on INLA to lift their threat.”
The Central Secretariat, however, advised that no such meeting should take place and even Sinn Fein issued a statement calling on the INLA to “publicly withdraw threats issued against DHSS personnel”.
Mrs Brown’s note continued: “INLA is a proscribed organisation and a meeting with its political representatives, the IRSP, could not be countenanced.
“Even if a meeting at local level held the prospect of a lifting of the threat, disclosure of such contact could have a serious impact on the political talks. If the IRSP did make a case in different circumstances, for discussions on political or constituency issues, this might be facilitated with the authorisation of Ministers, but a meeting could not be considered in the circumstances where the basis for such a meeting was the threat to staff.”