The relationship between Taoiseach Charlie Haughey and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sank to a new low in 1988, according to the State papers released today by the National Archives.

In testy exchanges, Mrs Thatcher was heavily critical of An Garda Síochána’s efforts at gaining intelligence about IRA activities.

She told Mr Haughey in fraught discussions that "Ireland has the biggest concentration of terrorists in the world" and warned a united Ireland would lead to "the worst civil war in history and it would spread to the mainland".

A handwritten prison letter from Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four, to the Taoiseach saw one of the victims of the notorious miscarriage of justice plead with Mr Haughey to be more robust with Mrs Thatcher over the case.

And in a bizarre story, Britain’s Attorney General Sir Michael Havers, recounted how his first words after waking up in hospital after heart surgery were: "We must kill Paisley".

When Francois Mitterand visited Ireland, Mr Haughey pulled out all the stops to entertain the French President and even presented him with a Louis le Brocquy painting. 

And a Department of Justice file, dating back to 1938, reveals a garda investigation into poet Patrick Kavanagh’s vociferous campaign to promote his book 'The Green Fool' by screeching at booksellers.

Conor McMorrow and Mícheál Lehane 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. Haughey-Thatcher relations sour over IRA

The Troubles in Northern Ireland claimed 104 lives in 1988, the highest number of fatalities since 1982.

In a year marred by violence, the relationship between Taoiseach Charlie Haughey and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sank to a new low, just three years after the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement.

The pair held a meeting on the fringes of the European Council meeting in Brussels in February 1988. Mr Haughey said there was "deep, deep anxiety and emotion in Ireland" over two recent events.

Firstly, in the aftermath of the Stalker-Sampson inquiry into accusations that that the British Army and the RUC were operating a shoot-to-kill policy, the British government announced that no RUC officers would face prosecutions.

Secondly, despite a massive civil and political campaign, the Court of Appeal in London rejected a plea by the Birmingham Six to have their convictions for the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings overturned.

Mrs Thatcher defended the decision not to publish the Stalker report and said she read the judgment in the Birmingham Six appeal case and it was "extremely impressive".

She made it clear that the British legal system was independent and there could be no government interference.

When the Taoiseach emphasised that "a very keen sense of injustice was rampant in Ireland", Mrs Thatcher asked how long these emotions have lasted for? To which the Taoiseach said: "700 years in our country."

Correspondence between the two leaders throughout 1988 shows the British Prime Minister pressed Mr Haughey for more cooperation on security between police forces on both sides of the border.

Extremely tetchy exchanges characterised a meeting between the two leaders in Hanover on 28 June.

On the issue of security co-operation, Mr Haughey outlined that after the seizure of IRA arms shipments from Libya, such as the interception of the Eksund vessel off the coast of France in late 1987, 50,000 homes in Ireland were searched. He said that a number of IRA arms bunkers had been found.    

But Mrs Thatcher said the British authorities would never have searched 50,000 homes and instead used its intelligence service to fight the IRA.

She said the border is ineffective as the IRA plan attacks from the south. Scathing of An Garda Síochána, she said: "We do not get intelligence from the gardaí. They are not the most professional force."

She explained that they deal with police forces in Amsterdam, France and Brussels and they are "highly professional". She pointed out that "Israel is a small country, yet it has one of the best police forces in the world".

She asked the Taoiseach to consider better training for the gardaí and added: "What we need is concerted systematic intelligence. If we don’t defeat the IRA, I don’t know what I am going to do. We can’t have the border open as it is now. We rely on intelligence."

Depressed about the violence in the North, Mrs Thatcher pointed out that British troops were originally welcomed into Northern Ireland but "it has all been so useless".

She added: "Whatever we have done so far just is not enough. There is the greatest concentration of terrorists anywhere in the world in this area. We are not winning the battle: they have become much more professional."

Mrs Thatcher was adamant that she "will never be prepared to walk out and let the terrorists win" and she said the Irish government talk about a united Ireland, but "would that be better? I say no, there would be the worst civil war in history. And it would spread to the mainland."

"Your people come over to us. I wish they wouldn’t. They come looking for housing and services. It’s the same in Northern Ireland. If there was a vote tomorrow they would vote to stay with us. They have better conditions in Northern Ireland and in England."

"I have one objective: that is to beat the IRA. For that we need the latest intelligence," the prime minister added.

The Taoiseach said he was sorry his opposite number was so disappointed and despondent. He pointed out that the Irish authorities get no credit even though they were putting "immense resources" into the fight against the IRA.

By September, a letter from Mr Haughey to Mrs Thatcher outlined that he has made efforts to improve the gardaí’s pre-emptive intelligence and training in intelligence gathering. FBI instructors were coming over from Washington to run training course for up to 30 selected gardaí.

Further specialised training was sought from police forces in the Netherlands, Denmark and Canada. Gardaí were offered places on a Special Search Techniques course run by British military personnel. 

There were also plans to create extra Special Surveillance Units dedicated to intelligence gathering in the gardaí.


2. Patrick Kavanagh’s aggressive book promotion

The efforts of renowned poet Patrick Kavanagh to promote his book 'The Green Fool' are detailed in an 80-year-old file released by the Department of Justice.

It reveals that a garda investigation was opened in 1938 after the poet called to several Dublin book shops demanding that his book was displayed in the front window.

The manager of Fred Hanna’s on Nassau Street told a Detective Garda Sergeant that he was not afraid of Mr Kavanagh, but feared he might do some damage.

He claimed the Monaghan native had said: "You have 15 minutes to put my book in the window, this is an ultimatum."

The Grafton Book Shop manager told a similar story.

The manager of that store says he told Kavanagh that it would be an impossible state of affairs if every Irish author came round and threatened him into stocking their books. 

The investigation began after it was brought to the attention of gardaí by a priest who believed the 'The Green Fool' was somewhat anti-Catholic in tone.

Reverend Fr Senan of Church Street in Dublin also suggested the Department of Justice should consider using the Censorship of Publications Act in this case.

The garda leading the probe concluded his report saying that he had made inquiries as to Kavanagh’s present address, but had not been able to ascertain it.


3. RTÉ threatened by new independent TV and radio stations

Back in 1988, then Minister for Communications Ray Burke spearheaded new legislation to establish local radio stations and one independent national radio station, Century Radio.

An Independent Radio and Television Commission was established, and at its first meeting in Dublin, Mr Burke said he wanted to see immediate action on the establishment of new radio and TV stations.

He said he hoped to see a new national radio station in operation by spring 1989 and a new independent TV station up and running by autumn 1989.

The commission was also charged with granting licences to local radio stations. Pirate radio stations were required to be off the air by the end of 1988 in order to be eligible to apply for one of the new radio licences.

Documents relating to the commission released today, show that then Minister for Finance Ray MacSharry was concerned about the possible adverse effects new radio and television stations would have on the financial position of RTÉ.

Mr MacSharry stressed "the importance of avoiding a return to the financial difficulties experienced by RTÉ during the first half of the 1980s".

While Mr Burke appreciated his Cabinet colleague’s concerns about RTÉ’s finances, he believed the broadcaster was "on a sufficiently strong footing financially and in terms of the quality of its services to withstand the future - inevitable - competitive broadcasting environment".

Mr Burke believed that increasing efficiency and making greater inroads into tackling licence fee evasion "should help to cushion substantially possible losses of advertising revenue to RTÉ".


4. Egyptian concern over Libyan boats

The Egyptian Embassy told the Government here they had information that Libyan ships were coming to Irish ports to pick up meat shipments were being used to smuggle arms to the IRA.

They added that a large part of this was done through the port of Belfast, but it also involved ports in the south.

The Egyptians also claimed that these boats were smuggling spare parts used by the Libyan army on their outward journeys.

The official who contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs stated that these "spare parts" were mostly American-made and could not be acquired by the Libyans on the open market.

This was of particular concern to his country and he was keen to send a full report to Cairo as soon as possible.


5. Gerry Conlon - "We are victims of serious miscarriages of justice"

Like much of the 1980s, documents released today from 1988 centre around the controversial Birmingham Six and Guildford Four cases. 

The Birmingham Six - Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Joseph Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power and John Walker - were each sentenced to life imprisonment in 1974 following their false convictions for the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, where 21 people were killed.

They always pleaded their innocence and commencing in January 1988, a six-week Court of Appeal hearing dismissed their appeals and rejected their pleas of innocence.

The same year, members of the Guildford Four continued their campaigns for release. 

The Guildford Four - Paul Hill, Gerry Conlon, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson - were also sentenced to life imprisonment in 1975.

They were falsely convicted of the IRA bombing of pubs in Guildford in Surrey, where five people were killed.

Documents released today include a handwritten letter from Gerry Conlon to Taoiseach Charlie Haughey.

In the candid letter, written from his cell in Full Sutton Prison on 25 May 1988, Mr Conlon described how he had spent 14 years in prison for something he "not only did not do, but did not even know anything about".

He outlined how politicians and church leaders in the UK and Ireland believe they are innocent and have put pressure on the Home Secretary Douglas Hurd to re-open the case.

He questioned Mr Hurd’s decision that there were no grounds for referring the case to the Court of Appeal in 1987, was motivated "to protect the leading players in the case".

"I have absolutely no faith whatsoever in the administration of justice in this country. I and my co-accused are victims of serious miscarriages of justice which are being covered up at government and judicial levels.

"Both of these bodies know of our innocence but are frightened by the prospects of our release which would expose the parts they played in our railroading to prison for crimes they knew we were not guilty of."

Mr Conlon starkly recalled that his father Giuseppe died in an English prison after "years of neglect and ill-treatment, he died an innocent man".

He pleaded with the Taoiseach to speak out on the behalf of the Guildford Four, Maguire Seven and Birmingham Six and take their cases to the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr Conlon wrote: "You have nothing to fear because we have the truth on our side, the British establishment has only lies and every lie they tell is another one, we can expose."

He asked Mr Haughey to take a "more robust attitude" with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on their case.

In response to the prison letters sent in July, the Taoiseach outlined how the Irish Government had been urging Mr Hurd to refer the Guildford Case to the Court of Appeal.

He pointed out that the Home Secretary was considering a report from Avon and Somerset Police into new evidence in the case. The Irish Government was awaiting Mr Hurd’s decision.

It was a further year before the Guildford Four were released in October 1989, having had their convictions quashed.


6. Red carpet for French President

When French President Francois Mitterrand visited Ireland in 1988, his first helicopter stop was at Charles Haughey’s lavish home in Abbeville.

Notes released from the Department of the Taoiseach’s Office show that a red carpet was acquired from Aer Rianta for the occasion.

Mr Haughey presented the French President with a framed painting by Louis le Broquy of Samuel Beckett, while Mrs Haughey offered champagne to the guests.

There were no media present at the event just an official photographer whose equipment was accommodated in the dining room.

The files say the ballroom was unavailable because a number of Emer Mulhern’s (Charles Haughey’s daughter) wedding presents were stored there at the time.

At the official State dinner to mark the visit, the entertainment section was dropped because President Mitterrand did not have a particular interest in Irish music.


7. "We must kill Paisley"

The documents released today contain a briefing note, marked ‘confidential’, which was taken after an official from the Irish Embassy had a lunch meeting with Ian Gow, the outspoken Conservative party MP.

Mr Gow, who would be later assassinated by the IRA in 1990, was "very depressed" by his party’s lack of progress with unionist politicians, who were still seething over the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, which they wanted to destroy.

During the lunch, they were joined at the table by the UK’s Attorney General Sir Michael Havers.

Mr Havers, a World War II veteran was a Conservative MP from 1970 to 1987. He had a lengthy legal career where he was Attorney General before he became Lord Chancellor.

Sir Michael Havers

He also represented the Crown in the trial and appeal of the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven, all of whom were later found to be wrongfully convicted.

When Mr Havers met the Irish Government official and Mr Gow at the lunch in London he told a most bizarre story.

The document dated 1987, but released today, stated: "Havers said that when he came out of the anaesthetic after his heart operation (his wife and surgeons were there) he immediately shouted: ‘We must Kill Paisley!’

He cannot explain it. He said, ‘wouldn’t it confirm everything Paisley accuses us of?’"

And it has also emerged today that Mr Havers was prepared "to send the police into 10 Downing Street" over an alleged shoot-to-kill policy by Northern Ireland’s police during the 1980s.

Questioned about a suspected cover-up involving "MI5 and people within the Cabinet", Mrs Thatcher said she had to look after "her boys over there", according to the documents just released under the 30-year-rule.

Mr Havers, who was succeeded by Patrick Mayhew as attorney general in 1987, told an Irish diplomat in London in February 1988 that a controversial decision not to prosecute anyone in the RUC over a number of killings was wrong.

"Havers said that the more he looks at what is happening, the more he believes that Mayhew should have gone for prosecution and ‘damn the consequences’."

It was reported back to Dublin that Mr Havers was "prepared to send the police into 10 Downing Street."

In January 1988, Mr Mayhew cited "national security" as he announced that 11 RUC officers named in the Stalker/Sampson shoot-to-kill investigation would not be prosecuted.

In a private discussion after the announcement, Mr Havers told the diplomat "there was enough on the file to warrant prosecutions up to superintendent or chief superintendent level in the RUC, but [chief constable John] Hermon himself was not involved."

The British government has always denied any shoot-to-kill policy.

Former police chief John Stalker was asked to investigate RUC shootings of six people but was removed from the inquiry shortly before it was due to report in 1986.

The inquiry was taken over by another English police chief Colin Sampson. Its findings were never made public.


8. Death on the Rock of Gibraltar

Three IRA members were shot dead by the British special forces SAS in Gibraltar on 6 March 1988.

They were suspected of being in the process of organising a bomb attack on the changing of the Guard Ceremony at the governor’s residence in the tiny British overseas territory bordering Spain.

The three IRA personnel - Mairead Farrell, Daniel McCann and Sean Savage – were unarmed and no bomb was discovered in their vehicle.

Three weeks after the killings in Gibraltar, a Thames Television documentary entitled ‘Death on the Rock’ revealed, through eyewitness interviews that the SAS shot the IRA members without any prior attempt to arrest them.

This evidence directly contradicted the official version of events and backed up ongoing claims from republicans that British forces were operating a 'shoot-to-kill' policy.

Carmen Proetta, a Gibraltarian lady who witnessed the shootings first hand, said that the IRA personnel were unarmed and holding their hands up when they were shot.

She was subsequently targeted by some British newspapers in a smear campaign that made false allegations such as a claim that she was a former prostitute.

The Sun newspaper carried the infamous headline "The Tart of Gib". She later successfully pursued media organisations in a number of libel actions.

A coroner’s inquest with a jury in Gibraltar found that the SAS had acted lawfully and they were justified in their actions. But in 1995, the families of the three IRA members took a case to the European Court of Human Rights, which found that their human right to life had been infringed.

Two days after the shooting, the Irish Government issued a statement saying it was "gravely perturbed that three unarmed Irish people were shot dead in Gibraltar when they could have been arrested by the security forces involved".

In the days after the Gibraltar shootings, there were concerns in government that one of the unfortunate results was that it "was likely to be a propaganda victory for the Provisional IRA."

In a briefing for Irish embassy diplomats in London, British officials said the position of the security forces on the ground on the day must be appreciated.

It said: "They knew they were dealing with dangerous terrorists and they had reason to suspect they may have been in a position to trigger off an atrocity."

They suggested that the SAS feared one of the three IRA members had a triggering device that could have been used to detonate a bomb.

Anglo-Irish Secretariat officials in Belfast warned their British counterparts of "the likelihood of emotional or difficult scenes" when the remains of those killed were returned to Belfast and called for "highly sensitive police handling of these cases".

Few could have predicted what would unfold at their funerals in the days afterwards.


9. The cemetery attack and corporal killings

At the funeral of three killed in Gibraltar in Belfast’s Milltown cemetery, loyalist gunman Michael Stone opened fire and threw hand grenades at mourners, killing three and wounding 50 people.

Three days later, two British soldiers were seized by a mob while driving through republican west Belfast during the funerals of those killed at Milltown.

Dressed in civilian clothes and driving in a civilian car, British Army Corporals Derek Wood and David Howes drove into the middle of the funeral cortege by mistake.

Following Mr Stone’s attack in the cemetery, some of the mourners believed the men in the car were loyalists attempting a similar attack.

The angry crowd surrounded the car and dragged the men from it. The scenes were recorded and broadcast on television. After the two corporals were taken from their car, they were taken away and shot dead by the IRA.

Documents released today show British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s abhorrence at the deaths.

In a private meeting with Taoiseach Charlie Haughey in late 1988, Irish officials recorded her to have said: "I will never forget receiving the bodies of those two soldiers murdered in Belfast before the television cameras. Those films were seen by their relatives. That was a terrible experience."

The British government faced criticism over the speed at which the security forces intervened as the incident occurred.

Tom King, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, explained that the RUC were under the impression that there were no soldiers whatsoever in the area and it took some time for an army helicopter to clarify exactly what was unfolding beneath it.

"As soon as what was happening became clear, the RUC acted with speed but unfortunately they were too late to rescue the soldiers."

But the DUP's Peter Robinson was critical of the RUC Chief Constable’s decision to "abdicate" policing responsibility to the IRA in west Belfast. Mr King denied that this was the case.  

The Liberal Party MP David Alton said the television coverage revealed the IRA "in its true colours and that it was no coincidence that efforts were made by the IRA to block this coverage".

The documents show there was also concern in Irish Government circles over the television footage of the incident.

The RUC demanded access to tapes from broadcasters. ITN agreed to give the RUC access while the BBC had refused and expressed scepticism about the ITN’s alleged readiness to comply.

The documents say the RTÉ office in Belfast was also asked for its tapes but adopted the same line as the BBC.


10. Gaddafi’s good wishes to Haughey

When Taoiseach Charlie Haughey was admitted to hospital in the summer 1988, there were good wishes sent to him from the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The note titled "URGENT" was delivered to the Irish Embassy in Rome.

It read: "We have learned of your admission to hospital, we wish you a speedy recovery, with best wishes for your health and happiness."

Mr Haughey was in hospital in July 1988 to undergo treatment for kidney stones.

Later that year, he was again admitted to the Mater Private Hospital for a respiratory infection that was causing bronchial spasms.


11. IRA and UVF talks in Maze Prison

Republic and loyalist terrorists in the Maze Prison were engaged in talks initiated by the prison chaplains in 1988, according to internal Department of the Taoiseach documents from the time that were labelled "Secret".

The Catholic and Church of Ireland chaplains organised the talks with the full support of Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich, Archbishop Robin Eames, Bishop Cahal Daly and Bishop Samuel Poyntz.

A November 1988 document from the Northern Ireland Division of the Department of the Taoiseach states that the Catholic chaplain in the Maze prison Fr John Murphy informed an official from the Irish Government "on a highly confidential basis" that the talks initiated in the prison "have now moved outside the confines of the prison and the IRA’s Army Council and the UVF leadership agreed to separate talks with the chaplains outside the prison.

The talks - initially to involve the leadership of both organisations speaking to the two chaplains - were "exploratory to see if a basis can be found for face-to-face talks between the two organisations in the near future".

But the talks were limited to the IRA and UVF as the document noted that neither the UDA nor INLA were involved.

The UVF indicated that they would prefer to exclude the UDA, amidst fears over the level of security force penetration of the UDA.

If a basis for talks were found, the UVF indicated the UDA would then be brought into the picture, without giving them the impression that they have been excluded from the earlier initiative.

"For this reason, the current talks are being kept secret. The Provos have given similar indications regarding INLA participation," the document stated.

Fr Murphy was a Catholic Chaplain in the prison from the mid 1970s, through the Hunger Strikes and is described in the documents as "one of the people in Northern Ireland most familiar with Provo, and indeed loyalist, psychology."

Fr Murphy was surprised that the UVF "have indicated a willingness at least to talk about a wide range of possible future arrangements for Ireland, not excluding concepts like a federal Ireland".

The document concludes that the Irish Government officials believe Fr Murphy hoped to "steer the talks in the direction of the concept of a federal Ireland".

He saw this as offering the best hope for agreement based on the four provinces, including a nine-county Ulster with a separate province type arrangement for Dublin similar to the District of Columbia in the US. But all ideas were deemed "tentative for the moment".

Speaking notes for a phone call from Tánaiste Brian Lenihan to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Tom King from 1988 state: "The IRA is hemorrhaging members in the Maze. There is now a movement among the prisoners in favour of an end to violence.

"They are discussing this among themselves with the Loyalist prisoners. Their views are having a significant effect on the internal Sinn Féin/IRA debate."


12. No move on beer limit

This was the year that the European Commission received a complaint over the 12-litre limit on individuals bringing home beer from Northern Ireland.

It was argued that this was an unreasonable interpretation of European law.

The Government strongly rejected this saying a large proportion of the population lived within a short drive of the "Land Frontier with Northern Ireland".

In a written response to the commission it was stated that "a person who drinks beer at the rate of a litre per day can, without undue difficulty, replenish his supply on the occasion of his next shopping visit to Northern Ireland".


13. The Last Temptation of Christ

There was uproar when the controversial 'The Last Temptation of Christ' movie was passed by the Irish Film Censor and allowed to be shown in Irish cinemas in 1988.

Directed by Martin Scorsese, the movie starred Willem Dafoe as Jesus; Harvey Keitel as Judas Iscariot and David Bowie as Pontius Pilate.

The film garnered global criticism from Christian religious groups because of it departure from the story of the gospel.

Among the controversial scenes in the movie was one where Jesus Christ imagined himself in a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene.

Papers released today show a Clare man wrote a letter to Attorney General John Murray and Minister for Justice Gerry Collins in 1988 accusing the Film Censor of "breaking the law against public blasphemy enshrined in our Constitution".

Frank O’Meara from Quin, County Clare penned a letter criticising the Film Censor Sheamus Smith’s decision to allow screening of the movie in Irish cinemas, despite 100,000 people signing a petition seeking that it would be banned.

The letter released today by the Office of the Attorney General stated: "The presence of the film in Ireland has given great offence to Catholics and Christians generally, but apparently not the film censor".

The letter claimed that Mr Smith had broken the blasphemy law, which remained in the Constitution until a referendum until 2018.

Heavily critical of the censor, the letter writer accused him of ignoring public opinion and sensibilities. It also questioned how public servants "feel free to break the law with impunity".

The file does not contain correspondence sent in reply to the complaint.

In October 2018, 65% of those who voted in a referendum opted for the removal of the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution.


14. Thatcher anger over priest’s extradition demand

Margaret Thatcher fumed at Charlie Haughey over the Republic's failure to extradite a priest suspected of IRA involvement during a meeting at the end of a European Council Meeting in Rhodes in December 1988.

Mrs Thatcher told Haughey that Fr Patrick Ryan, who had been arrested in Belgium, was "a really bad egg".

Mr Haughey told Mrs Thatcher that "we never heard of this man until he appeared in Belgium". However, she responded: "You amaze me. From 1973, he was the main channel of contact with the Libyans."

But Mrs Thatcher told Mr Haughey, recorded in notes compiled by senior civil Dermot Nally, "We faxed everything to your attorney's office. There was no effective co-operation there.

"Your people had Saturday, Sunday and Monday - three days - and did nothing".

Ryan was arrested in 1988 after the IRA had killed three off-duty British servicemen in the Netherlands.

He went on hunger strike as the British attempted to extradite him from Belgium. Eventually, the Belgian courts sent him back to Dublin, where his case sparked a diplomatic row between Ireland and Britain.

Mr Haughey responded that under Irish law, they couldn't issue a warrant in anticipation of a person's arrival in the country. "We must wait until the person comes into the country," he told her.

During the same meeting, Mrs Thatcher told Mr Haughey that if they could "get rid of terrorism" there could be "great prosperity for everybody in Northern Ireland".

Mr Nally, the senior civil servant taking the notes, wrote at the end of the account that Mrs Thatcher spoke "more in sorrow than in anger".

Tension over the extradition of terrorist suspects had marred Anglo-Irish relations, with Mrs Thatcher complaining about the failure of cases to proceed over what she regarded as "frivolous" reasons.

In media interviews subsequent to the controversy Fr Ryan always denied having any links to the IRA.


15. Government warned of hostage threat

The Government was warned there was a risk of terror action in Ireland to free a member of the Al-Fatah group named Fuheid after he had been arrested in London.

A note marked ‘Secret’ was passed to the Department of Foreign Affairs from the British Embassy in Dublin.

It said the risk was heightened given the "the known connections between Al-Fatah and the Official IRA".

It said the principal danger would involve the taking of hostages to exchange for Fuheid.

An accompanying document also stated that it was unrealistic to expect "Arab terrorism" to be confined to a few countries.

It said that although there was no indication that either IRA group would assist in this activity, it was still likely that weapons would be made available to an organisation called RASD if they planned a terrorist "mission" here.


16. Concern over Nazi war criminal’s art collection

Pieter Menten was a Dutch man who was convicted of participating in war crimes in Poland during World War II.

He was sentenced to ten years in prison for his part in the 1941 killings of between 20 and 30 Poles and Jews.

The millionaire art collector bought a country house at Lemybrien in Waterford in the 1960s.

He had an extensive art collection in Amsterdam and also held valuable works of art in Comeragh House in Waterford.

In 1988, an application was made for an export licence for ten paintings formally held at Menten’s Waterford house.

Under law, an export licence must be obtained from the Department of the Taoiseach for all paintings and documents aged more than 100 years.

Photographs of the documents or paintings must be provided to the Taoiseach if required.

Documents released today show that the Raymond Keaveney, the Acting Director of the National Gallery, was asked by Government officials to travel to Rosslare "to ensure personally" that the pictures correctly tallied with those on the list for export.

Given the sensitivities around the Nazi war criminal’s art collection, a briefing note prepared for the Taoiseach highlighted that at the end of Menten’s trial, which sentenced him to a decade in prison, the Dutch authorities returned a number of works of art to him, including 157 paintings.

The Irish embassy in The Hague had been advised by the Dutch authorities that Menten’s art collection in Holland was legitimate and any art works held in Comeragh House were also legitimately held.

A High Court action made in 1980 by a US citizen to secure possession of certain works of art believed to be held in Menten’s Waterford home proved unsuccessful.


17. Vatican listening to London

The Irish Ambassador to the Holy See reported this year that the Vatican was attaching great importance to its relations with London.

The reason for this was linked to the restoration in 1982 of full diplomatic links between the two states, which had broken off during the reign of Henry VIII.

The ambassador wrote: "The fact that the major terrorist, as opposed to political, violence comes from members of the Nationalist Catholic community tend to put the Holy See on the defensive when dealing with the British Embassy here and makes it easier for the latter to present their position in a good light."

In a memo sent to Dublin, the ambassador said his task was to give an even presentation without anti-British comments on matters such as extradition and border security.

He said this would enable the Vatican to be in a better position to accurately assess "what they hear from our British friends".


18. Dublin’s Millennium time capsule

Just after midnight on 1 January 1988, celebrations began to mark a thousand years of Dublin as a city.

The year-long celebrations were officially launched by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Carmencita Hederman.

A letter released today, shows how Ms Hederman’s successor Ben Briscoe wrote to the President of Ireland Patrick Hillery seeking his assistance with "the millennium time capsule".

The Fianna Fáil TD explained that the final act of the Millennium Year would be the sealing of a time capsule, which will be opened in 2088.

A ceremony to close the capsule took place in the last minutes before midnight on 31 December.

All major institutions and organisations in the capital were asked to contribute items for inclusion in the capsule.

The items were to reflect a given organisation’s contribution to the life of the city that "would be of general interest in 100 years' time".

The letter concluded with the Lord Mayor expressing his wish that the project will prove of great interest to the citizens of Dublin in a century’s time.

Additional reporting by Edel McAllister