The Guardian | Published : Friday, 29 December, 2017
Message from UVF to former taoiseach Charles Haughey claims British intelligence supplied details of his home and cars
Charles Haughey pictured in the 1980s. Newly declassified state papers reveal that Haughey was warned by loyalist paramilitaries that MI5 had ordered his assassination. Photograph: PA
By Owen Bowcott
MI5 encouraged loyalist paramilitaries to assassinate Charles Haughey, the former Irish prime minister was warned in a letter sent to his Dublin office.
The previously secret message – apparently issued by the Ulster Volunteer Force and released under the republic’s 30-year rule to its national archives – claims British intelligence went as far as supplying the UVF with targeting details.
The note, on UVF-headed notepaper, was received by Haughey’s office in 1987 while he was serving as taoiseach for a third time. The threat was taken seriously by the Irish government at the time: divers were dispatched to check that no explosive device had been attached to the hull of his yacht.
The loyalist group claimed it had been exploited and manipulated by MI5, MI6 and British special forces from 1972 to 1978 and again in 1985.
“In 1985 we were approached by a MI5 officer attached to the NIO [Northern Ireland office] and based in Lisburn,” the UVF letter said. “He asked us to execute you.”
The MI5 operative supposedly gave details of Haughey’s cars, photographs of his home, his private island, Inishvickillane, off the Co Kerry coast, and his yacht, Celtic Mist.
The paramilitaries also alleged they had been given details of Haughey’s trips to Kerry airport and photographs of a plane he used.
“We refused to do it. We were asked would we accept responsibility if you were killed. We refused,” the UVF said in the letter. “We have no love for you but we are not going to carry out work for the Dirty Tricks Department of the British.”
Haughey was leader of Fianna Fáil, which in 1985 was the official opposition party. He was perceived by London as pursuing a tougher line on nationalist and republican issues. When the letter arrived in Dublin in August 1987, Haughey was back in power but on holiday. He was shown it later and asked for the Irish justice department to let him know whether it had any information.
The message was signed in block capitals “Capt W Johnston”, the name used by the UVF in its formal statements. The UVF said it had killed 17 men using information from British intelligence during earlier years of the Troubles.
The organisation claimed the MI5 plot was aimed at destroying the “Eire economy”. It said British intelligence planned to provide it with a spoon of “Anthras” (sic), “Foort and Mouth Disease”, “Fowl Pest, Swine Fever and Jaagsikpi” to be released in Ireland.
The letter is among a number of files dating back to 1987 released to Dublin’s national archives this month.
Another file details a report to the republic’s foreign ministry suggesting that Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin leader, had been working on a strategy to end the Provisional IRA’s armed campaign as early as that year.
A confidential report dated 4 February 1987 said: “[Bishop Cahal Daly] has picked up a rumour that Gerry Adams is currently trying to put together a set of proposals which would enable the Provisional IRA to call a halt to their paramilitary campaign.
“He has reached the view that the ‘armed struggle’ is getting nowhere, that it has become a political liability to Sinn Féin both North and South and that as long as it continues there is little chance that he will be able to realise his own political ambitions.”
According to a separate report in the government files, Adams was also rumoured to have set up an IRA gang from a hardline republican area for ambush by the SAS as they tried to blow up Loughgall police station in May 1987.
All eight members of the East Tyrone brigade were shot dead after they loaded a 90kg (200lb) bomb on to a stolen digger and smashed through the gates of the RUC barracks in Loughgall, Co Armagh. British Army special forces were lying in wait and killed them all, along with an innocent bystander, Anthony Hughes.
The rumour was passed on to the Department of Foreign Affairs by a respected cleric, Fr Denis Faul, about three months after the Loughgall operation. The priest said the theory doing the rounds was that “the IRA team were set up by Gerry Adams himself”.
The claim was dismissed by a Sinn Féin spokesman who said: “These claims are utter nonsense.”