Many who venerate the memory of Margaret Thatcher are unable to admit that not all she did was ideologically pure, or based on the most noble of motives. So it is that her Bruges speech is remembered for criticism of a “European Superstate”, and the part about Britain being at the heart of Europe is forgotten. Similarly, the Brighton bombing is held out as her implacable opposition to terrorism. Except it wasn’t quite so simple there, either.
Mrs T’s Government was accused more than once of dabbling in a little terrorism of its own, notably over the allegations of a “shoot to kill” policy in Northern Ireland, and such well-publicised events as the Gibraltar shootings, which led to Thames Television being stripped of its franchise in an act of routine vindictiveness - as well as an avalanche of abusive press coverage smearing her opponents.
So it should surprise no-one that the release of previously secret information under Ireland’s Thirty Year Rule has thrown up yet another episode from the past which Thatcher devotees probably hope will soon be forgotten. Some will already have conditioned themselves to believe that what has been revealed is the invention of Rotten Lefties (tm) and can be explained away in a huff of righteous anger. It can’t.
The Irish Independent broke the news: “Charlie Haughey was warned by loyalist paramilitaries that MI5 ordered his assassination, declassified state papers have revealed … Records from his office while he was Taoiseach in 1987 reveal that the UVF wrote to him to tell him that British intelligence also launched a smear campaign against him … The loyalists claimed their organisation was used by MI5 and MI6, backed up by British Army special forces, from 1972 to 1978 and again in 1985”. And there was more.
Charles Haughey ((c) RTÉ)
“The previously secret letter, on UVF headed paper, showed the loyalists told Mr Haughey that the MI5 operative gave details of his cars, photographs of his home, his island, Inishvickillane, and his yacht, Celtic Mist … The paramilitaries also claimed to have been given details of Mr Haughey's trips to Farranfore airport in Kerry and photos of a plane he used”. And to whom do MI5, MI6 and British Army special forces ultimately report?
Fortunately, the UVF drew the line at bumping off the Taoiseach. “In the letter, the UVF said it had killed 17 men using information from British intelligence … Signed in block capitals ‘Capt W Johnston’, the name used by the UVF in all its formal statements, it closed with the line: ‘We have no love for you but we are not going to carry out work for the Dirty Tricks Department of the British’”. So who in the UK is reporting this story?
A more detailed version, including a claim that Gerry Adams was looking for ways to end the IRA’s paramilitary campaign back in 1987, has been published by the Guardian. The BBC has also carried the news. And some online newspaper sites have now run an item on it. But the issues raised by this revelation - the manipulation of Loyalist paramilitaries by UK security agencies, and what Mrs T knew and when - remain unaddressed.
And one conclusion can be drawn all too readily: when those on the right start calling “Terrorist sympathiser” on the likes of Jeremy Corbyn, they need to be reminded of exactly who the real terrorist sympathisers are. They aren’t in the Labour Party.