Research at the National Archives in London has produced a number of revelations about British covert operations in Ireland in the 1970s recently, (including my own story about the secret Special Reconnaissance Unit.)
The latest is an Irish News piece about the British response to the arrest of eight SAS men in the Republic in 1976. It highlights the extent to which the lengths which the British were prepared to go to, to influence the Irish judicial process, but perhaps the most interesting passage is this one:
in a hardening of positions, a senior MoD official wrote to the secretary of state, Merlyn Rees, on May 25 stating: "I feel it would be naive to believe that in effect a prison sentence would not be something approaching a death sentence.
"Given the extent to which the Irish believe their own propaganda, and the mythology surrounding the SAS in the Republic, I can see little chance that the soldiers, were they convicted and sentenced to imprisonment, would escape uninjured."
In an interesting reference to the fact that the British establishment was already fully aware of attacks on six Irishmen wrongly convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings the previous year, he wrote: "One has only to think of the incident in this country in which those responsible for the Birmingham bombing were assaulted by prison officers to realise how much more likely a similar, or probably more serious occurrence would be in this case.
"Obviously, we must give full weight to our relationship with the Republic of Ireland, but I cannot help feeling that the Foreign Office have been concentrating on this to the exclusion of common sense. (Irish News, via Nuzhound)