Declassified state papers: Dr. Daly remarks alarmed Britain

Dr Edward Daly.
Dr Edward Daly.

Comments by the Catholic Bishop of Derry at a conference of Catholic bishops from Ireland and Britain in December 1986 unsettled the British government, it emerged this week with the declassification of state papers.

The meeting of the Liaison Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland at Archbishop’s House in London on December 2, 1986, discussed the Anglo-Irish Agreement and was attended by Sir Robert Armstrong, the British Cabinet Secretary, and the Irish Ambassador to Britain, Noel Dorr.

In a subsequent report to the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), Sir Robert Armstrong drew its attention to Bishop Daly’s remarks.

The bishop had stated that there was not a single senior Catholic RUC officer in the city of Derry.

Bishop Daly’s remarks prompted the NIO to take action with a senior official sending a draft letter to be sent by Sir Robert Armstrong to Bishop Eamonn Casey, of Galway, as chairman of the Joint Bishops’ Conference.

Its aim, the official told the Cabinet Secretary, was to “put the record straight” over the bishop’s remarks which were “lacking in balance.”

In the letter, Armstrong told Bishop Casey: “Bishop Daly mentioned that there was not a single senior officer from the minority [Catholic] community currently serving in the City of Londonderry.

“Against this, it is fair to point out that Catholic officers are or recently have been occupying a number of key posts throughout the entire force, including those of Deputy Chief Constable, Assistant Chief Constable in charge of Belfast and the Commandant of the Police Training School; and, more generally, that the proportion of Catholic officers in the senior ranks is higher than the proprtion of Catholics in the force overall.”

Meanwhile, it’s also emerged with the release of the formerly secret documents that the RUC tipped off police in the Republic of Ireland about a loyalist incursion into Clontibret, County Monaghan, in 1986.

A note to the British Ambassador to Dublin refers to about 150 loyalists, “some wearing paramilitary uniforms and carrying cudgels” invading Clontibret.

The note, penned by a NIO official, said: “The RUC’s action in tipping off the gardai... was also warmly appreciated in Dublin.”