Henry Patterson on ‘Could Dublin have done more to stop the IRA’

Professor Henry Patterson had this interesting article in the Irish Times on Friday about the Irish government’s failure to tackle the Provisional IRA from 1970 onwards. Here I must declare an interest, Henry Patterson is my supervisor, but this is something I have written about myself.

Patterson has recently written a book on this subject called Ireland’s Violent Frontier which looks at the border security policies of the British and Irish governments during the Troubles.

In his book and in this article, Patterson is critical of the Irish governments response to the IRA campaign highlighting complaints from the British government that;

The Irish security forces were seen as being ineffective or turned a blind eye to IRA activities as long as they were directed North. In some cases members of the Garda were transferred away from the Border and there was also substantial increases in Garda and Army numbers in Border areas.

However, the focus of this increased security force presence was on IRA challenges to the stability of the South and possible loyalist incursions. The response to British pleas for more effective forms of co-operation was limited and patchy.

Patterson does note that there was some co-operation on the ground between both sides but this;

was often reliant on the personalities of individual policemen and what was perceived to be the attitude of Minister of Justice and government of the day.

He concludes by giving an assessment of where Eamon Gilmore could build on his recent remarks arguing;

the Irish Government should consider opening the State archives on these contentious issues in as comprehensive a manner as Saville. This would not end the battle over history in Northern Ireland but it would at least cut down on the amount of permissible lies about the past.

Could more disclosure from Dublin be one of the final pieces of the jigsaw we need to close the book on the past? It seems to be the most likely way to ever get some kind of truth about what happened during the Troubles.

On an interesting side note, while conducting my own research I came across this interesting poll from February 1973 in the Sunday Telegraph on Irish attitudes towards the IRA campaign.

Do you support the present IRA campaign of violence in NI as the best means of achieving unity?

Yes-15% No-85%

If not would you favour stronger action, or even internment, against IRA operations in NI from the South?

Yes-44% No-56%

John-Paul McCarthy has this piece on the topic in today’s Sunday Independent

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs