1990: Tory & Unionist pressure group proposed two month terrorist amnesty for offences short of murder #20YearRule

A bundle of notes in the battered orange CENT/3/221A file (selective scans) of NIO ‘political development’ stands out. The file has been released today under the 20 Year Rule and can be viewed in the Public Records Office in Titanic Quarter.

The Secretary State Peter Brooke met David Storey, the chairman of The Monday Club, on 4 May 1990. The meeting occurred against the backdrop of ongoing political talks between the NIO and local political parties.

(Described by Harold Wilson as “the guardian of the Tory conscience”, infighting over the political pressure group’s hard right agenda led to resignations and a vote of no confidence in the club’s chairman David Storey less than a year later in January 1991.)

“Mr Storey began by explaining that membership of either the Conservative Party or the UUP was a pre-requisite for membership of the Monday Club. The fact that the Conservative Party had formally broken its links with the UUP did not affect these criteria.”

The Club met the Secretary of State to hand over a memorandum of recommendations. In summary:

  • “The Union should be made permanent through the repeal of section 1 of the 1973 Constitution Act, which provided in effect that the Province might leave the UK if a majority of its population voted for that course. This provision encourages the terrorists and created a deep-seated fear among Unionists that they might one day be ejected from the UK; … Scotland did not have the right to secede from the UK even if a majority of its population desired that course (which might well explain why Scottish nationalism had little or no terrorist manifestations). The Secretary of State comments that if a majority of the people of Scotland were clearly in favour of seceding from the UK, then that would create a situation which any Government would obviously have to consider carefully.”
  • Given a seemingly “endless pogrom” in Northern Ireland, The Friday Club recommended that the security forces switch from containment to “the more aggressive ‘search and destroy’ philosophy”. The Secretary of State challenged their analysis.
  • “Mr Storey then moved on to the Monday Club’s proposal for a two month amnesty for minor terrorist-type offences, commenting that this was the first time that the Club had advocated such a move. He argued that its advantage would be that panic and mutual suspicion would be sown in terrorist ranks by fear that some of their number might have taken advantage of the amnesty to inform on their colleagues.”The Monday Club’s proposed amnesty would have excluded murder. Those coming forward would be guaranteed “complete freedom from prosecution” along with “absolute secrecy as to their identity” and “no inclusion in the criminal records for those offences confessed”.
  • “Mr Storey next urged that the Government should renounced any idea of pursuing a ‘power-sharing’ type settlement in Northern Ireland. This had manifestly failed before and would be bound to do so again, for example, the Unionists and the SDLP members of such a body would be bound to pull in opposite directions.”

The meeting was “conducted briskly [and] lasted about half an hour”. The political pressure group’s intervention did not inspire the Secretary of State.

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