NI 1987 state papers: Divis flats demolition would have ‘undermined’ Provisional IRA support

Posted By: August 23, 2015

NI 1987 state papers: Divis flats demolition would have ‘undermined’ Provisional IRA support

By Éamon Phoenix Historian. BBC NI. Friday,  August 21,  2015

Support for the Provisional IRA was strong within the Divis flats complex, the Irish government said
NI 1987 state papers

Demolishing west Belfast’s Divis flats would have undermined support for the Provisional IRA, a senior Catholic bishop claimed in the late-1980s.

The Irish government was keen to see the complex razed as an early fruit of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, newly released state documents reveal.

Bishop Cahal Daly told the Irish foreign affairs department he wanted to see the flats demolished.

A church-owned former military base could be used for rehousing, he said.

Bishop Cahal Daly told the Irish foreign affairs department he wanted to see the flats demolished
The details have emerged in a typed note sent from the British Embassy in Dublin to the Foreign Office in London.


Sir Alan Goosidon, the then ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, reported in the note that Irish official Michael Lillis had given him a record of a private conversation between Bishop Daly, the then bishop of Down and Connor, and members of the Irish foreign affairs department.

“One particular project [the bishop] would wish to see undertaken as soon as possible after the agreement is the demolition of the Divis Flats complex,” Sir Alan’s note claimed.

“The Provisionals are very strong there, not least because they have consistently supported the residents.”

Bishop Daly had told Mr Lillis that some 50% of the Divis residents could be rehoused locally.

He was prepared to make the former military base at MacRory Park available for public housing.

Sir Alan continued: “If this happens he will ensure that the housing association and labour employed is local and not subject to IRA racketeering.”


If the Divis complex was destroyed, not only would the residents acquire better housing “but the Provisionals would lose one of their key areas”, Mr Lillis told the ambassador.

Bishop Daly was prepared to a former British military base available for rehousing the Divis flats residents
Sir Alan wrote in his note to the Foreign Office that the Irish government had “a very high opinion of the bishop and his approach to the problems of a flock in which [the Provisional IRA] are very active”.

The Irish government was “properly anxious” that the idea of demolishing the flats should not be promoted as coming from them, he added.

They requested that the secretary of state or a Northern Ireland Office minister should see the bishop and “get him to forward his ideas directly”.

A note on the file by RP Cleasby, a private secretary to Secretary of State Tom King, raised the possibility of a meeting between King and Bishop Daly to discuss the issue.

The flats were later demolished.