We know the Provisionals fear we may be stringing them along, January 1975 Download image
In early 1975 British officials and Republican representatives secretly negotiated the terms of an IRA ceasefire that came into force in February and lasted for most of that year. Most accounts of the ceasefire argue that the British duped the IRA into calling a ceasefire and strung them along in order to weaken them militarily. This message, sent by the British in late January, contains the striking line ‘We know that the Provisionals fear that we may be stringing them along’. It indicates not only that the IRA was aware of this danger even before the ceasefire, but that the British were also aware of this fear on the part of the IRA. The final line reads ‘We are not at this stage able to meet Mr. David O’CONNELL [emphasis in original] himself. But we assume that he is now personally directing the dialogue. Is this so?’ O’Connell was a wanted man at the time. It indicates that even though the British felt it was too sensitive to talk to him directly, they wanted to be reassured that this key figure was personally directing the talks and that the Provisional negotiators had his support. If there was to be a settlement and a permanent end to the IRA campaign his support was essential.
(1) A letter from the IRA to the British Prime Minister, January 1975 Download image
The formal and courteous tone of the letter, addressed personally to the British Prime Minister of the time, Harold Wilson, is striking, indicating the desire of the Provisionals to behave in a properly diplomatic way during these contacts. But the letter is striking too for the emphasis on securing ‘an honourable and permanent end to this conflict’. Given the emphasis on the word ‘permanent’ after the IRA ceasefire of 1994, it is interesting to note that the word appears three times in this short message. There is no reference to Irish reunification or the political goals of the Provisionals but the emphasis is placed instead on their ‘sincerity to explore every avenue to secure’ a ‘permanent’ end to the conflict. Duddy’s personal diary for the period indicates intense and prolonged negotiation between the two sides over the twelve points included in this letter.
(2) A letter from the IRA to the British Prime Minister, January 1975 Download image
(3) A letter from the IRA to the British Prime Minister, January 1975 Download image
(1) Don’t call us, we’ll call you, February 1975 Download image
With Many Thanks To :Dr. Niall Ó Dochartaigh, The James Hardiman Library.
And also many Thanks to : National University of Ireland Galway.
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