Officials Concerned Over US IRA Support

Posted By: December 30, 2005

Officials concerned over support in US for IRA

“One of the main concerns of British officials was the
extent to which the Irish National Caucus … might extend
its influence within the US Congress and the US media”.

By Jimmy Burns

Published: December 29 2005 02:00 Last updated: December
29 2005 02:00

Support for the IRA in the US was one of the prime concerns
of British officials charged with dealing with Northern
Ireland affairs in the mid-1970s.

In early 1975, British intelligence helped provide the US
Federal Bureau of Investigation with an updated blacklist
of suspected IRA members, whose US visa applications were
then turned down.

British officials also considered encouraging moderate
Irish Catholic politicians to raise funds in the US, as a
way of diverting funds away from Irish Republicanism. But
within Whitehall it was generally accepted such efforts had
limited impact on the steady support the IRA enjoyed among
some Irish-Americans, with UK officials estimating up to a
third of the organisation’s income was being raised in the

A Northern Ireland Office official wrote in a memo to a
Foreign Office colleague on June 4 1975: “Many American
citizens, not particularly well informed (or indeed much
concerned) about Northern Ireland, would be similarly
bamboozled by the apparent unity of Irish organisations in
the US in subscribing to a policy of getting the British
out of Northern Ireland.”

One of the main concerns of British officials was the
extent to which the Irish National Caucus – an informal
network of pro-Irish Republican Americans – might extend
its influence within the US Congress and the US media.

In Washington, British embassy officials warned that once
Sinn Féin, the IRA’s political wing, had “gained
respectability or power” in the South [of Ireland], then
the Irish National Caucus “would become an organisation to
be taken seriously both on Capitol Hill and in the country
at large”.

Meanwhile, Whitehall paranoia was stirred by the decision
of Pope Paul VI to make a saint of Oliver Plunkett, an
Irish Catholic archbishop executed in the 17th century for
alleged treason against the British state.

Kenneth Jones, an official with the Foreign Office’s
western European department, warned in a memo dated April
23 1975 that the planned canonisation was politically a
“source of greater embarrassment” to the government than
had been the canonisation of 40 Catholic martyrs five years
earlier. As supporting evidence, he quoted an Irish
Catholic priest who had drawn an analogy between Bishop
Plunkett’s persecution and the “squalor of British
internment procedures” involving IRA suspects.

Desmond Crawley, head of the British delegation to the
Vatican, advised that the government should keep a low
profile on the Plunkett affair. The canonisation went ahead
with the presence of the Pope, and senior Irish government
figures. The Vatican publicised the event as an example of
ecumenical reconciliation.

Father Sean Mc Manus
Irish National Caucus
P.O. Box 15128
Capitol Hill
Washington, D.C. 20003-0849