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 Cosgraves 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 OHagan.
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 ?