Border passes: MOD keen but forces in NI say it’s “a positive asset to the IRA” #20YearRule

A briefing ahead of a meeting of the NI Secretary of State and the Defence Secretary on Wednesday 15 March 1989 assessed the issue of Border Passes and ID Cards. There is ‘nothing new under the sun’ as the writer of Ecclesiastes might remind those considering a hard border as part of the Brexit negotiations.

The information is contained in the NIO/10/9/5 file [selective scans] recently declassified under the 30/20 Year Rule and now available to read in the Public Records Office.

The Secretary of State Tom King recognised that “… any attempt to introduce an ID card scheme in Northern Ireland is likely to present serious political, presentational and, even perhaps security problems”. But he had yet to report these conclusions to the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The briefing explained that “the Secretary of State sees no merit in a voluntary scheme as an aid to improved security in the Province” and accepts that “a compulsory scheme applying only in Northern Ireland” might bring “some” security benefits but is not a practical proposition”.

The ID Card scheme remained “on ice”. But while the lesser Border Pass scheme was “a brainchild of the MOD in London”, there was no enthusiasm from 3 Brigade in Northern Ireland nor from the Chief Constable who “sees a pass scheme as a positive asset to the IRA”.

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