Cabinet believed IRA may have paid PLO to shoot diplomats

A month after the Brighton hotel bombing the British Government wondered if the IRA had donated £400k to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) as a downpayment on the Arab implementation of Provo threats to kill British diplomats overseas.

Friday, 3rd January 2014, 4:37 pm
A Palestinian militant from the Fatah wing of the PLO. Thatcher's Government wondered if the IRA had paid the PLO to kill diplomats for it.

That’s one theory, which was apparently considered by Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet in November 1984.

A minute of a meeting, on November 29, also referred to a Revolutionary Organisation of Socialist Muslims (ROSM) claim that it had carried out the Brighton bombing in October 1984.

ROSM - believed to have been a cover for the PLO splinter group, the Abu Nidal Organisation (ANO), was under discussion because it had claimed responsibility for killing British Deputy High Commissioner, Mr Percy Norris, in Mumbai, on November 24.

The previously confidential minute reveals Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe, informed cabinet: “Responsibility for the assassination had been claimed by the ROSM, who had similarly claimed responsibility not only for the murder in Athens of the Deputy British Council representative, Mr Kenneth Whitty, on March 29, but also for incidents in which they were unlikely to have been involved such as the Brighton bombing.

“Apart from these claims, nothing was known about the ROSM; they might or might not be a front for the Abu Nidhal terrorist group.”

This was a reference to Sabri al-Banna ‘Abu Nidal’s’ international terrorist group, which was formed after a split with Fatah in 1974, over Yasser Arafat’s proposal of an interim Palestinian authority in the West Bank and Gaza.

Nidal was opposed to any move that implied a peaceful settlement or recognition of Israel. In his turn, Arafat claimed Nidal was working for Israel.

On November 29, Mr Howe also speculated on whether the IRA was paying the PLO to assassinate British diplomats around the world.

“In a brief discussion, reference was made to press reports that the IRA had donated £400,000 to the PLO and to the possibility that this might represent payment to Arab terrorists for acting as agents in implementing the IRA’s threat to kill diplomats,” the minute states.

“If these reports were to be substantiated, they would have implications both for British policies and for presenting the case against the raising of funds in the United States in support of the IRA,” the minute concludes.