Policy on Internment of Loyalists

Unless otherwise stated all of these documents are from November/ December 1972. Internment without trial had been introduced in August 1971. Despite a deadly loyalist assassination campaign in 1972 (with over 120 sectarian murders in that year alone) the authorities had not interned a single loyalist. By late 1972 memos began to circulate in the Ministry of Defence and Northern Ireland Office as to when and under what circumstances they 'might' arrest and intern 'Protestants'.

Arrest Policy

Outlines criteria for internment – explains why policy does not allow for arrest of loyalists except under certain circumstances. Poor quality copy but other copies below provide same detail.


Arrest policy1.23 MB

Criteria for internment orders

Letter from Secretary of State William Whitelaw to General Officer Commanding Harry Tuzo outlining criteria for internment orders and why loyalists 'may not fall' within the new Order.

Arrest Policy for Protestants

Discussion of the difficulties in laying down criteria for arresting loyalist paramilitaries. 

2 of 3 pages (page 3 not released)

Arrest Policy for Protestants - Memo from AW Stephens at the MoD in London

At point 1 (apologies for the quality of the copy) reference is made to a meeting at Stormont Castle on November 29 1972 where the GOC (General Officer Commanding - the British army) was asked to "draft an arrest policy covering the UVF and other extreme loyalist elements, though not the UDA per se."

Arrest Policy for Protestants - Loose Minute

Discusses the changes that would be required and asked a fascinating question at paragraph 4! Just what did the RUC object to? See memo from AW Stephens above.

Criteria for loyalist detentions - Loose Minute

MoD memo discussing the criteria that might be applied 'if and when' loyalists would be detained. Refers to loyalist violence including 'comparatively harmless vigilante activity'.

PFC note- throughout 1972 there had been a number of incidents where 'comparatively harmless vigilante activity' had included taking Catholics from their vehicles at UDA roadblocks and beating, stabbing and shooting them to death in so-called 'romper rooms'.

Loose minute294.35 KB

1974 memo (1 page only released)

Note of a meeting in the Northern Ireland Office on 13 November 1974 including officials from various ministries, the Attorney General's Office and the Treasury Solicitor's Office. The 'Counsel' referred to in the document is almost certainly the legal counsel representing the British Government at the European court case taken by the Irish Government in respect of multiple violations of the European Convention on Human Rights by the British in the North.

The claim that only Roman Catholics were interned before 1973 because loyalists did not pose a threat in that period of a kind which led to death and serious injury will no doubt come as a surprise to the many Catholic families who had loved ones murdered in that period.

The fact that the British Government was also deceiving the European court is perhaps less of a surprise. Did these Whitehall mandarins really believe this deception?