Sept 75 Brief - Thatcher visit to PM with Secretary of State re NI update

11 September 1975

It’s September 1975. Opposition leader Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative spokesman on the North, Airey Neave, meet with Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, and Northern Secretary, Merlyn Rees. Two weeks earlier, two loyalist ambushes at fake security force checkpoints had resulted in five murders.

The dead included three members of the Miami Showband (see Miami links) on July 31 and GAA supporters Sean Farmer and Colm McCartney on August 25. The latter, a cousin of poet Seamus Heaney, was murdered along with Sean Farmer on their way home from the GAA All Ireland football semi-final.In both cases, the attackers included members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, then the largest regiment in the British Army. A member of the RUC was also involved in the second ambush.

At the time the British Government strenuously denied SDLP allegations of security force collusion in the murders. The minutes of this meeting between a serving and future Prime Minister paint a very different picture. Those at the very highest levels of government knew that the front-line British Army regiment, the UDR, was 'heavily infiltrated' by loyalist paramilitaries and that there were 'certain elements in the police who were very close to the UVF...' See page 3, para 2 (The reference to Paisley is revealing).

What was the response of the British Government to this alarming revelation?

They mobilised the UDR along the border, created full-time UDR regiments and increased its intelligence-gathering role.

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Declassified minutes of 1975 Wilson/ Thatcher meeting881.07 KB