23 February 2006

US Feared Irish Civil War After Bloody Sunday - Documents Reveal

Derry Journal

Tuesday 21st February 2006

Following the murder of 14 people on the streets of Derry in 1972, the US government was warned by its Dublin embassy staff that civil war was looming should the Americans fail to put pressure on the British Government to change its Ireland policy. White House and US State Department papers released this week from February 1972 state that the warning from embassy staff to the American administration argued US national interests could suffer if the conflict in Ireland evolved into all out warfare. Embassy staff feared Britain would be forced to withdraw troops from NATO duties and reassign them to Ireland. This opinion was formed when political relations between Ireland and England were at their lowest ebb. The English embassy had been burned by protestors following deaths of 13 of the Bloody Sunday victims.

"The sober view," stated the American Embassy report as recorded in US State Department papers released this week, "of people in the government here and of most of the diplomatic corps - including ourselves and members of the British mission is that the present course of events on this island, if not modified by a change in British policy, runs a grave risk of leading to civil war, or at least further bloodshed..." The British were forced to react to the growing US unrest over the question of Ireland following the massacre in Derry. Britain, through National Foreign Secretary Alec Douglas-Home, informed the White House that: "If the majority of Northern Ireland wanted reunification then we should gladly accept but two thirds of the population remain absolutely opposed."

Veteran journalist and civil rights campaigner Eamon McCann, after studying the recently declassified papers said: "It is interesting to note that after 30 years of conflict and over 3000 deaths that the British Government position in relation to Northern Ireland hasn't changed. "I find it interesting," said McCann that, "the response of the British Government was to reiterate the majority rule proposal. These papers in effect confirm the British were saying they had no commitment in principle to the union. So even after 30 years of troubles and the Good Friday Agreement, the basic British position remains the same."

The report also noted that the US government had no basis to intervene in the domestic affairs of another country. However The American position on Northern Ireland Mr. McCann commented was one of pure self-interest, serving only their own national security issues. The report to Washington further stated: "If this present course is not altered and this island becomes convulsed, it is difficult to predict which sort of Dublin Government would emerge in the aftermath, with significant consequences for ourselves, the EEC and Western Europe. "Finally," concluded the document, "we think that our government would wish to say it did not stand by unconcernedly as Ireland headed toward bloodshed."

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