On the 95th anniversary of the Treaty, the State Papers released today reveal a startling admission where British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher told Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald that Britain "got it wrong in 1921".

The documents offer a behind closed doors view of Ireland in 1986, where the government was advised not to introduce sex education in schools as it grappled with a divorce referendum.

Previously secret information about a senior Libyan official telling an Irish diplomat Libya wanted to fund the IRA to kill Margaret Thatcher and her family has also come to light.

Mícheál Lehane, Conor McMorrow and Edel McAllister of RTÉ's Political Staff, trawled through the confidential State Papers, which have been kept under lock and key for 30 years until today.

1. Britain got border wrong in 1921

Margaret Thatcher pictured during the 1980s

In a meeting just before Christmas 1986, the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher confided in the Taoiseach that she was depressed about the situation in Northern Ireland.

Mrs Thatcher accused the Irish government of being unable to protect the border and of refusing to allow British army helicopters to fly five miles inside the Republic. "I do feel very depressed at times about the whole situation. The violence has not been defeated."

Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald responded by saying both police forces had an impossible border to watch. Mrs Thatcher agreed and said "Yes, we got it wrong in 1921."

The Prime Minister also said terrorists were getting safe houses in the South. Garret FitzGerald pointed out that "we have 200 people from the North in our jails," and added "you can have them back any time you want."

The Prime Minister countered with: "I don't want them. You can have all the nationalists in the North if you like."

2. Marriage education - not sex education

As the government prepared to draw up proposals for the 1986 referendum on divorce, an Oireachtas committee had recommended a comprehensive education programme in schools to prepare people for marriage.

However, in a note for government, one senior civil servant wrote a personal view on the best approach to this fraught issue.

He said that "training in schools should be on relationships generally, understanding different personality types, group influences etc.

"The concentration should not be on sex, but on understanding and getting on with people generally, whether male or female."

3. Libya’s $50m plot to fund IRA and murder Thatcher

In June 1986, the Irish government publicly expressed deep concern after Libyan Major General Ahmed Jalloud made comments about renewing Libyan support for the IRA.

The Irish ambassador to Rome, Eamon Kennedy, was asked to make an urgent visit to Tripoli to express the government’s “grave concern about any support or renewal of support by Libya for the Provisional IRA.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Peter Barry told the ambassador to tell the authorities in Libya that “the IRA is the enemy of the Irish State” and such support was “unacceptable”.

Documents released today detail Ambassador Kennedy’s account of his June 21 visit to Tripoli where he met the Saad Muzber, Chief of Protocol, who he said, "is more than a chief of protocol. He is very close to Gaddafi and is the political link between the people’s committees and the foreign office."

The Libyan official was blaming the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for helping US President Ronald Reagan with attacks on Libyan cities Tripoli and Benghazi.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan pictured in 1986

He told the Irish official: "Thatcher and her children will have to pay, let there be no doubt about that. If she does not leave office she and her family will be destroyed."

In the early 1980s Libya had called off its co-operation with the IRA in London because it was informed that innocent civilians were suffering.

During Ambassador Kennedy’s two hour meeting with Mr Muzber, for some of the time the Libyan "was screaming, weeping and sweating all at once.

"But towards the end he said something to which I took serious exception. He said that at the next popular congress he would advocate, despite all I had said, full support for the IRA against Thatcher. 'What could the IRA not do, he asked, if they had $50million to use against Thatcher'?"

The ambassador said this threat would impair Irish-Libyan relations. He added: "I have personally doubt that Libya will reactivate its support for the IRA in Britain and will endeavour to murder Thatcher and her family. Two hours with Saad Muzber made that quite clear."

4. Terracotta Warriors & ‘the Great Fall of China’

Terracotta Warriors, China

Labellled ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’, the 7,000-strong Terracotta Warriors, depict the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China and date from the third century BC.

Stumbled upon by farmers at the site of the emperor’s tomb in 1974, an exhibition of some of these stunning figures came to Dublin as part of a European tour in late 1985.

The day before they were due to go on public display, two of the ‘priceless’ life-size Chinese figures were damaged.

Two light fittings fell from the ceiling, knocking the right arm off a soldier and the head off a Chinese war horse figure.

The Irish Times labelled the incident a "deeply embarrassing mishap" while the Irish Independent headline the day after the incident read "Priceless - Great Fall of China".

It soon emerged Irish taxpayers would have to foot the bill for the damages. By January 1986, the Chinese authorities issue a bill of IR£338,809 for the damages, sparking panic in government.

As the government sought advice from art experts and archaeologists, The Sunday Press carried a story where Swedish archaeologist Stephen Berg claimed the statues in the exhibition were merely replicas.

After much diplomatic communication between Dublin and Beijing up to May 1986, the Irish government agreed to pay an "amicable settlement" of IR£35,000 to the Chinese government as compensation for the damages caused to the two Chinese warriors.

5. AG warns sex discrimination law would be “highly controversial”

"It does not appear to me that there would be any great legal difficulty in outlawing discrimination by an employer on the basis of sexual orientation if the government and the Oireachtas wished this to be done."

So wrote the Attorney General of the day John Rodgers in response to a question from the Minister for Labour Ruairi Quinn.

However, the AG warned that legislation in this area would be "highly controversial," adding though that this was a "political and not a legal question."

6. Cash-strapped RTÉ lobby for ad rates and licence fee hikes


A consultant’s report on RTÉ at the end of the 1984/85 financial year recommended "maximising revenue from all sources in order to eliminate a substantial cash deficit at the national broadcaster".

In 1986, Minister for Communications Jim Mitchell brought a memo to cabinet seeking approval for increases in RTÉ radio and television advertising charges to "maximise revenue."

A briefing note from Dermot Nally, Secretary to Government, to Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald gives a blunt assessment of the national broadcaster and Minister Mitchell.

It reads: "Why the minister should concern himself with RTÉ advertising charges is hard to understand. If the company charge too much, their services will not be used.

"If they charge too little they will feel it in their accounts. What relevance has the Minister to these purely commercial decisions? He should get out of the whole area of second guessing and let them run their business."

A cabinet memo notes how Minister for Finance, John Bruton, did not object to the increases.

But he was "concerned" that the additional revenue generated by the price hike "could be used to support excessive pay settlements and unwarranted expansion of services or be used as a basis for avoiding cost efficiency measures proposed in a recent consultant’s review of RTÉ."

The government approved the increases which included an overall increase of 5% on radio advertising charges, and increases in television advertising rates, including hikes on RTÉ One of between 5% and 16%.

The broadcaster also sought a licence fee increase. A Cabinet memo from January 1986 notes a stern response from then Minister for Public Service, John Boland, who said he was "strongly opposed to the granting of the licence fee increase.

"The Minister believes the payment now of a licence fee increase would release RTÉ from the discipline of having to come to terms with the gravity of its financial situation."

He also complained that during 1985, RTÉ paid interest free loans to members of its staff, at a time when it was anticipating grave problems regarding cash-flow.

The memo records the Minister as stating that "the public should not be expected to sponsor this kind of irresponsible management, which has been all too much in evidence in RTÉ."

7. Adams' conservative clothes

A parish priest on the Falls Road in Belfast believed that Gerry Adams tried to cultivate his image as a politician by wearing more conservative clothes and appearing at certain social functions.

In secret briefing documents Dean Gerard Montague's view in late 1986 was that "Adams was never a gun man" and was "essentially a politician."

The priest said the decision that year to end abstentionism (thus allowing Sinn Féin TDs to take their seats in the Dáil) was very popular in the North. He believed too that Gerry Adams had a "calming effect on some of the wilder types among the Provos."

Electorally, the parish priest believed the bedrock of Gerry Adams' support in west Belfast was not the disillusioned youth but rather "the old women." He said too unlike the INLA, Sinn Féin and the Provos still try to "keep on the right side of the church."

8. Ireland-Australia tensions over Queen Victoria statue

Queen Victoria building, Sydney

A statue of Queen Victoria which was languishing in storage for 20 years almost sparked a diplomatic incident with Australia in 1986.

The statue was designed by sculptor John Hughes in 1908 and had once taken pride of place on the lawn at Leinster House until it was unceremoniously removed to make way for parking in 1946.

The Australians were refurbishing the Queen Victoria building in Sydney and sought to acquire the statue which is eventually found in storage in Offaly.

A letter from the New South Wales government stresses how either the "gift or loan of the statue could only serve to further enhance the great bond of friendship which exists between our two countries."

Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald is minded to give the statue to the Australians, however Minister for Finance John Bruton is vehemently opposed.

His views are contained in a memo to government which says: "The Minister for Finance sees great danger in publicly jettisoning a figure of the second tradition. The repercussions for the government from such an act would far outweigh any minor adverse publicity that might arise if the Australian request were refused."

In the same memo, civil servants fret that while no commitment was given formally or informally, the "courteous response by the Irish ambassador in Australian and the OPW to the request may have raised Australian expectations."

In the end, the statue goes to Sydney sparking angry letters in the pages of The Irish Times.

Professor Anne O. Crookshank of History of Art Department in Trinity College writes that she was shattered to learn of the move, describing the separation of the main statue from the supporting ones as an act of vandalism "only equalled by the late Archbishop of Dublin who had Turnerelli’s altar in the Pro-Cathedral cut to pieces.

"The IRA blows up our statues; our ecclesiastical authorities vandalise our churches and now our government throws out works of art.

"Taxed worse than by any medieval tyrant, we miserable citizens of Ireland see to have no redress against such behaviour," she concludes.

9. Robinson left to fend for himself

In the early hours of 7 August around 150 loyalists, accompanied by DUP MP Peter Robinson, invaded the quiet village of Clontibret in Co Monaghan. Mr Robinson was arrested and charged under the Offences against the State Act.

The State Papers reveal the Irish government was told later that year by sources in the Northern Ireland Office that the UDA deliberately did not mount any show of strength in support of Robinson following the "Clontibret escapade." This was because it wanted to let him "fend for himself entirely."

The DUP Leader Ian Paisley was also in exercising minds in Dublin. A briefing prepared by the Department of Foreign Affairs concluded that he "would huff and puff" but would back off violent confrontation.

It said he was a "restraining influence on the Ulster Resistance Movement. "His sole purpose is to control it, which is a great deal better than if Peter Robinson was solely in control," officials in Dublin were told.

10. Government’s Nobel Prize bid for Geldof

Bob Geldof

Following the 1985 Live Aid concert, Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald nominated musician Bob Geldof for the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize with the cross-party support in Leinster House.

Documents released today show how the government tried to summon support for Geldof from other countries. Irish ambassadors were asked to make discreet inquiries about it with governments in cities such as Vienna, Tokyo, Moscow, Rome and Madrid.

In one telex back from the Irish Embassy in Moscow, the ambassador notes "there is room for doubt as to whether the Live Aid concert and its method of fundraising would fit into Soviet concepts of development aid or acceptable music.

"Certain rock artists e.g. Michael Jackson is on the banned list and their records and tapes can be confiscated on importation. There is intense interest among Soviet young people about Live Aid but the vast majority of people know nothing about it."

In correspondence between the Taoiseach and Charlie Haughey , the Fianna Fáil leader is happy to support the government bid but he took issue with the Taoiseach’s use of the terms "youth", "young" and "this young man" in reference to The Boomtown Rats frontman, as they "seem too patronising."

Officials in the Department of the Taoiseach contacted the Irish Embassy in London to ask it to contact Geldof to obtain "career particulars relevant to the nomination."

The embassy responded: "We have spoken to Bob Geldof. He appreciates the need for information but feels that you should pursue inquiry through Hot Press magazine in Dublin or The Irish Times (Joe Breen?) either of which he says know more about his career than he does himself."

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel won the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize.

11. IRA believe Anglo-Irish Agreement will fall apart

New files released by the Department of Foreign Affairs give an insight into views on the Provisional IRA’s strategy in 1986. David Barry, of the department’s Anglo-Irish division gives a detailed account of a meeting he had with solicitor PJ McGrory at his Belfast home in April 1986.

The files noted that McGrory was providing legal representation for well-known republicans Gerry Kelly and Bik McFarlane who were caught on the run in Amsterdam. McGrory "has never taken seriously the idea that Adams is Chief-of-Staff of the IRA…he is satisfied Adams has a remarkably strong influence on the Republican movement."

The account continues, "McFarlane and Kelly, who are strong individuals in their own right, ‘think the world of him’ and even hardened Provos in the Maze who might normally be expected to view with a jaundiced eye someone outside who is promoting a political approach, attest to considerable affection and respect for Adams. This applies particularly to the Provo OC in the Maze, Robert Storey."

The Belfast solicitor believed that under Adams’ influence the IRA had decided to "lie low" until the Anglo-Irish Agreement "falls apart of its own accord."

"They expect the Taoiseach and Mrs Thatcher to make some concession on the Agreement which will appease unionists and alienate nationalists. They will stand in the wings ready to reap the benefits when the time comes."

The IRA believed the "agreement will become a ghost" and this would result in "a massive electoral shift to Sinn Féin and increased recruitment to the Provos."

McGrory said that "the Provos would allow the agreement disintegrate by itself but not try to hasten its demise to any significant extent."

12. Ann Lovett’s death 'a great personal tragedy'

Grotto where Ann Lovett died

While today’s release of State papers primarily focuses on material released under the 30-year-rule, government departments also release older material at this time of year.

Among this material, is a small number of documents relating to the tragic death of Ann Lovett.

On 31 January 1984, the15-year-old school girl from Granard, Co Longford, left school and made her way to a field beside the church in the town. She died giving birth.

Ms Lovett’s body was discovered by passers-by that afternoon next to a grotto in a field. Her baby boy was stillborn and Ann Lovett died later that afternoon in hospital. Her death sparked national and international attention.

A government memo from 10 February 1984, just days after the death, notes: "The Minister for Health mentioned certain further facts which had come to light since his first report. The course of action to be followed by him was agreed."

A handwritten note, dated three days earlier on 7 February, 1984, writes: "Government received a report from Minister for Health and Education; expressed sympathy with the parents and family. Insofar as an inquiry is concerned, there will be an inquest. Great personal tragedy which should not be compounded by particular kinds of attention."

13. Anglo-Irish Agreement offers 'best chance of defeating Provos'

A newly-released document labelled 'Secret' outlines a meeting between Bishop Cathal Daly and David Donoghue from the Anglo-Irish Secretariat in Belfast on 20 July 1986.

On the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, Bishop Daly tells Donoghue that it must be got across to the British, and to the Unionists, that the Agreement offers the last chance of "saving this society from anarchy."

The briefing document also notes that the Bishop believed, "The Provos have been hit hard by the Agreement – it is clear from their defensive attitude towards it that they feel threatened by it. In overall terms, there is probably less terrorist violence now than before the Agreement.

"The Agreement if honoured by the British, offers the best, and indeed the only, chance of defeating the Provos. Of the British give in to Loyalist pressure as in Portadown, "that chance will be lost forever."

14. Tory MP believes Birmingham Six were innocent

A Department of Foreign Affairs account of the security and legal aspects of discussions at the 1986 British-Irish Association Conference, labelled confidential, gives an insight into British thinking on the Birmingham Six, Annie Maguire and Guildford Four cases.

Conservative MP Sir John Farr, who had been involved in the case of the Birmingham Six, had met two of them in the days before the conference. "He emphasised that the Birmingham Six, did not want a release, but rather a re-trial. They wanted to prove their innocence.

"Farr said that the reputation of British justice as ‘real’ justice rather than ‘paper’ justice was under attack in this case and he made it clear that he believed the Birmingham Six to be innocent."

At the same meeting, Clive Soley, Labour Home Office spokesman, agreed with Sir Farr on the Birmingham Six and he also thought the same considerations applied to the Maguire and Guildford cases.

The document also states that Mr Soley "believed Douglas Hurd [British Home Secretary] might make a favourable decision in the Birmingham Six case at least. He saw a problem with the Annie Maguire and Guildford/Woolwich cases because of the lack of new evidence.

"He believed the main inhibiting factor with Douglas Hurd was the fact that he was being inundated with Sinn Féin/IRA propaganda on the subject."

15. Thatcher livid that Taoiseach spoke Irish

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was livid that the Taoiseach spoke in Irish at the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

This was the view Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Tom King expressed to the Irish Ambassador in London in March 1986.

Ambassador Noel Dorr wrote "It appears that his outrage is due to the fact that the Taoiseach had suddenly, and without warning, switched in the middle of his statement in English to saying something in a language which the Prime Minister and the British side did not understand."

Mr Kind said "he (the Taoiseach) could have been saying anything as we sat there," and he said it had made "many people in the province" very bitter.

Part two of the report on the State Papers will be published tomorrow