Robust defence of NI policy imagined US assassination

Sir Kenneth Bloomfield with Margaret Thatcher.
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield with Margaret Thatcher.

A close relative of the US President has been blown up; as preparations for the Presidential election are being completed, his Chief of Staff has been assassinated in the grounds of Congress; and the hotel hosting his party’s annual convention has been blown up with him in it: how, asked Northern Ireland’s top civil servant Ken Bloomfield, would IRA sympathisers in the United States feel if their Government had suffered similarly to Margaret Thatcher’s in the late 1970s and early 1980s?

A newly-released secret note penned by Mr Bloomfield in March 1985 “robustly defended” the Government of the day’s policy on Northern Ireland.

In particular Mr Bloomfield responds to those who would level “fierce and potentially damaging criticism” from the Republic and Irish America.

He wrote: “To make what has been happening move vivid for observers outside the United Kingdom, let me describe some of the events in terms of their American equivalent.

“A close relative of the President, a person honoured both nationally and internationally, has been blown up, with his family, on a sailing holiday [Lord Mountbatten].

“As preparations for the Presidential Election are being completed the President’s Chief of Staff is assassinated in his car within the precincts’ of Congress [Airey Neave]. At the Convention of the party in power, the hotel in which the President and his closest colleagues and associates are staying is attacked.

“The President himself has a most fortunate escape [Mrs Thatcher], the Majority Whip in the House of Representatives is seriously injured and his wife killed [Mr Wakeham]j one of the most senior members of the President’s Cabinet is also gravely injured, and his wife left paralysed [Mr Tebbit]. In New York there is a serious explosion outside Bloomingdale’s, with death and injury to innocent bystanders [the Harrods bombing]. On their way to a ceremonial occasion in Washington, an elite detachment of the US armed services held in particularly high regard throughout the country, are the victims of another massive explosion [the attack on the Lifeguards].”

He adds: “These, in their British equivalent, have been some of the actual assaults mounted upon our democracy in Britain, and it is simply grotesque to suggest that we do not take such events with the greatest seriousness or that we are faltering in our search for effective remedies.”