Derry killing strained peace bid

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The murder of a young RUC officer in Derry strained efforts by Sinn Féin and the British Government to negotiate a way out of the conflict 25 years ago, newly declassified papers have shown.

Constable Gregory Pollock was aged 23 when he was killed in an IRA mortar attack on Spencer Road on Wednesday, April 20, 1994. He was the last police officer to be killed in the city during the ‘Troubles’.

Gerry Adams, John Hume and Albert Reynolds, key figures in the peace process of the time.

Gerry Adams, John Hume and Albert Reynolds, key figures in the peace process of the time.

Tragically, the young Down man died just months before the first IRA ceasefire in August of that year.

New state papers released by the British Government have revealed the sense of frustration that was felt in Whitehall over the murder of Constable Pollock and the attempted murder, almost successful, of two of his colleagues. At the time Sinn Féin was seeking clarification from the British Government on the Downing Street Declaration of December 1993 in which London had officially acknowledged the people of Ireland’s right to self-determination based on consent.

Following Constable Pollock’s murder, British Prime Minister John Major’s private secretary Roderick Lyne had sought advice from the Northern Ireland Office on how to address the issue if pressed on the matter by the opposition in the House of Commons or by the Press.

Jonathan Stephens, who worked for the Secretary of State Patrick Mayhew, advised on clear lines to be taken in condemnation of the deadly Derry bomb attack.

Mr. Stephens suggested that Mr. Major should state: “It is for the IRA and Sinn Féin now to explain what possible justification there can be for wicked and murderous acts, such as that which killed Constable Pollock and injured Constables Carroll and McKnight in Londonderry last week. There can be no justification for any violence, whether republican or loyalist.

“The Downing Street Declaration is very clear. Both Governments have made determined efforts to ensure it is fully understood.

“There will be no talks or negotiations with Sinn Féin until IRA violence has been brought to a permanent end.”

The young Newry-born policeman’s death was not only the last murder of a police officer in Derry it was the last murder in the city during the office of the Bishop of Derry, Dr. Edward Daly, who retired on April 26, 1994.

Commenting on Constable Pollock’s murder, alongside those of Alan Smith, aged 40, and John McCloy, aged 28, who were shot dead by the IRA in Garvagh four days later, Bishop Daly, said: “The murder of the young police officer in the Waterside area of Derry last week and the murder of the two men in Garvagh were deeds of unspeakable cruelty. They cannot be justified. I express my sincere sympathy to the bereaved families. I hope that those who were injured make a full recovery.”

The ‘Journal’, in an editorial, asked: “Does the IRA really think that...the murder of a young Protestant policeman in Derry last week increased the likelihood of the Protestant community placing any faith in IRA promises of a non-sectarian, politically non-discriminatory united Ireland?”