The Journal of History     Winter 2004    TABLE OF CONTENTS


Dublin Planned 'Invasion' Into North In 1970

Author unknown
Originally published between December 29, 2000 and January 1, 2001

The Dublin government was ready to order a military incursion north of the border to protect Catholics as violence against them escalated dramatically in 1970, according to documents released for the New Year.

The order to prepare for such an action was made following a crisis meeting of the 26-County Government on February 6th, 1970.

But the South's military forces were not prepared for the operation and confusion reigned at all levels within the government of the day, the papers reveal.

Hesitant Army chiefs warned that a defence mission across the border would face heavy casualties at the hands of much stronger British forces, and that it was also likely to provoke a counterstrike in the South by British troops.

Details of the directive were revealed in files released by the National Archives Office in Dublin under the 30-year rule of secrecy.

The Taoiseach, Mr Jack Lynch and his cabinet heard evidence from Catholic representatives from the North who had no defence against systematic and widespread attacks on their communities by loyalists.

But in an April 6th briefing paper marked "top secret," the Defence Forces' chief of staff, Lieutenant General Sean MacEoin, and his senior officers warned the government of "disastrous consequences" if they were ordered into the Six Counties.

The soldiers from the South could have been outnumbered by more than 16 to one by a combined force of British troops and armed RUC.

But according to one military file, northern nationalists sought weapons and ammunition, "the provision of which the government agreed as and when necessary."

"Accordingly, the Chief of Staff was instructed to put truck loads of these items at readiness so that they could be available in a matter of hours if required," the document reveals.

The paper says that Ireland's defence force strength at the time was only 8,860 personnel, a number which included the air corps, navy, troops on UN duty, and back-up units.

"Excluding these elements there would not be more than 2,500 line troops available to be mustered, organised into units and trained preparatory to undertaking incursions," the document warns.

In addition, the paper says their combat effectiveness would have been low and there were deficiencies "in almost every type of armament, ammunition and military equipment."

The southern forces would have faced 13,000 British troops in as well as 8,500 police and reserves trained with firearms.

These could be immediately reinforced from Britain by another 20,000 troops with air and naval support.

"The armed opposition likely to be encountered by incursions into Northern Ireland is vastly superior in strength, organisation, combat training and equipment to those elements of the Defence Forces which could be mustered," army officers warned.


* The family of one of the first victims of the conflict has expressed anger at new evidence that the Unionist government of 1970 resisted British calls to widen the investigation into the killing.

A proper investigation into the controversial shooting of John Gallagher by a B-Special platoon in Armagh in August 1969 could have prevented later state killings of nationalists.

Six County government papers released under the thirty-year rule reveal that Labour home secretary Jim Callaghan called for an English police inquiry into the killing.

The Labour government, which had pressed the Unionist administration to accelerate a programme of reform, was defeated in Westminster elections a few months later, and the case remains unsolved to this day.
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