Officials sceptical of IRA navy base bomb claim

An aerial view of the US Naval Communications base in Derry in the mid 1960s.
An aerial view of the US Naval Communications base in Derry in the mid 1960s.

US officials played down a claim that the Provisional IRA considered blowing up its Naval Communications HQ in Derry in the early 1970s.

A diplomatic cable for June 1973, just released by international anti-secrecy organisation, WikiLeaks, reports a claim from someone claiming to be a journalist who alleged the Provos in Derry were “in the process of deciding” that the naval base in the Waterside “will be made a legitimate target of their operation.”

The male ‘journalist’ - who presented credentials of the “North Atlantic Press” - told the then US Consul that his source was a named Provisional IRA leader on the run in Co. Donegal.

The official cable goes on: “ConGen wondered why Provos would contemplate such action and particularly if reason might be importance of base payroll to economy of community... Base commander has been informed of foregoing.”

The communique concludes: “Attacks on Londonderry base would seem highly unlikely. They would be about surest way one could think of to dry up financial support in US for Provos.”

The newly released information is part of WikiLeaks’ “Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD)” and include a number of references to Northern Ireland and Derry.

One, in particular, refers to an address by the then SDLP deputy leader John Hume to a group of Congressmen in Washington DC in 1974.

During the visit, Mr. Hume - then Minister of Commerce in the doomed power-sharing administration at Stormont - is reported to have told the US politicians that the IRA did not have the support of the people of the Bogside and that the SDLP represented the Catholic community in Northern Ireland.

The SDLP politician is also reported to have said that Noraid was a “IRA front” organisation and that money raised in the US was used to buy guns and ammunition.