Soviets Prepared to Exploit the IRA during the Cold War


December 27,2013 – The Scotsman reports that the Soviet Union was prepared to exploit the IRA during the Cold War. The Irish government tried to get George Bush, Sr. involved in tackling the Troubles by issuing warnings that the USSR would start exploiting the growing support of the IRA.

State papers were published after the end of the 30-year rule and they reveal that ahead of a one-day visit to Dublin in 1983 from the then United States Vice President, government officials stated that the Taoiseach should use the threat from the Soviets as a way to get support.

The advice was offered during the planning for the Fourth of July arrival; however, the White House aides were not as preoccupied by the North Ireland question and they were more focused on the arrangements for a “spontaneous meet-the-people” visit to the pub Mr. Bush had planned. Advisors to Garret Fitzgerald saw this as an opportunity to get Washington on board with the situation at hand. The men urged them to use the growing threat of terror and closeted support for the Provisional IRA to spark some interest.

The documents revealed: “It is suggested that the Taoiseach and the minister, rather than stressing the fact that Sinn Fein made little or no gains in the recent election, should on the other hand emphasized the present serious level of support and the opportunities which this creates for subversion and indeed outside [Soviet] exploitation.”

Files from the Department of Foreign Affairs stated that Dublin felt that Britain wasn’t taking Northern Ireland seriously. Taoiseach was to warn Bush that Sinn Fein was becoming an increasingly left winged party and nationalists were beginning to feel alienated from any political progress that may have been happening in Northern Ireland. The documents also revealed that Ireland had agreed to Ban Soviet airlines from the tarmac at Shannon airport. This was merely 10 days before the nuclear threat was avoided during the Cold War.

Documents show the US President Reagan sent direct requests to Taoiseach Fitzgerald to stop Aeroflot stopovers after a civilian plane was shot out of the sky. The ban was ordered after the Soviets shot down the Koran Air Lines Flight 007 on the first of September, 1983 near Sakhalin Island in the Sea of Japan. It is said that the aircraft flew into Soviet air space.

Every one of the 269 people on board the flight were killed.

Reagan penned a stern letter that tried to rally international opposition to the Soviets and called for a friendly cooperation effort. “The Soviet action represents a challenge to the international community. It would be a tragedy if we do not collectively respond in a resolute and clear manner to this action,” he wrote. The tension during the Cold War was at the highest it has been since the Bay of Pigs crisis back in 1962.

Leaked reports show that the world was a single button press away from a World War Three, strife with nuclear weaponry. A Russian army early warning missile detection system gave a false alarm that the US had launched a strike. Luckily, nothing happened and the potential disaster was adverted. Approximately a month had passed and the Kremlin attempted to keep the mistake quiet while continuing the spy operations. Enemies in Nato put the pressure and began simulating an operation called Able Archer.

The period was regarded by the military and many political historians believe that was the closest the world came to a nuclear war. Fitzgerald confirmed Aeroflot would be banned from Shannon on September 16, 1983 before the missile detection malfunction in Moscow. Ian Paisley was described as a schizophrenic and ready to take on the IRA’s “Brits Out” mantra if he didn’t get his way with the Northern Ireland Politics.

According to a report marked confidential and released under the 30-year rule, the then secretary of state for Northern Ireland, James Prior believed the Democratic Unionists were not prone to splitting and dividing because of a leader’s domination. Prior’s view of Paisley were recorded in the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs files after a meeting with the minister of foreign affairs, Peter Barry at Hillsborough on October 19, 1983.

“Mr. Prior said that there were people like Paisley who were schizophrenic,” a report of the meeting shows.

“The DUP were loyalists only so long as they got their own way and would as a last resort get the ‘Brits out’ and go it alone rather than seek accommodation with the minority.”

Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE