Thursday, 9 September 2010

Talking to terrorists

Recently there has been much comment in the media about the need to talk to dissident republicans.  Should the government enter into discussions, formal or informal, direct or indirect, with dissident republicans?  Some commentators have argued that it is a good thing to do but have failed to produce any substantial evidence or argument.  In that context it is perhaps worthwhile reflecting on what happened in 1972. 

There was a secret meetings between the IRA and MI6 in Northern Ireland and these led on to another secret meeting between two IRA representatives, David O'Connell and Gerry Adams, Frank Steele of MI6 and Philip John Woodfield of the Northern Ireland Office.  The IRA demanded that Adams, who was interned at the time, be released for the meeting.

This paved the way for another secret meeting but this time with the Conservative Secretary of State, William Whitelaw, in London.  This took place in the home of another senior Conservative politician, Paul Channon and the IRA was represented by Sean MacStiofain, David O'Connell, Seamus Twomey, Ivor Bell, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and Mac Stiofain later confirmed that all the representatives were members of the IRA. 
The meeting took place on 7 July and just a few weeks later, on 31 July, the IRA placed three car bombs in the little village of Claudy and murdered nine civilians.

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