Yesterday’s Man?

The Irish news today carries an interesting story, 1974 talks for peace ‘scuppered’, in which Republican Sinn Fein president Ruairi O Bradaigh claims that peace talks with senior Protestant clergy in 1974 at Feakle, Co Clare, were disrupted, he believes, by Liam Cosgrave’s FG-Labour Coalition sending in “60 armed Special Branch officers and 120 uniformed Gardai”. He claims that the talks led to to a six-month IRA ceasefire and, more interestingly, discussions about withdrawal of the British government from Ireland.

On the SF negotiating team : Mr O Bradaigh, Sinn Fein vice-president Maire Drumm, Ulster organiser Seamus Loughran, and leading republicans Billy McKee, Daithi O Conaill, Seamus Twomey, Kevin Mallon and JB O’Hagan.

On the Clerical team : senior members of the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Assembly, Methodist Church and other denominations.

” “A promising and developing encounter had been disrupted, perhaps with Dublin government sanction. We all knew that the Churchmen were in contact with the British government,” said Mr O Bradaigh, who left Sinn Fein in 1986. “

“Eventually it came down to defining the republican terms and the wording of the declaration of intent by Britain to leave Ireland,” Mr O Bradaigh said.

It will be interesting to see if his claims are substantiated when official British and Irish government documents from 1974 are released under the ‘30-year rule’. Were the British Government really that close to pulling out ? And did the government of the ROI compromise what might have spared us those murderous years ?

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