Confidential US cables shine spotlight on Tyrone’s murder triangle and prominent Dungannon campaigners

A TROVE of secret diplomatic cables published by the whistle-blowing Wikileaks website on Monday past has shone a spotlight on one of the murkiest chapters in Dungannon’s recent history.

The Kissinger Cables - as the anti-secrecy organisation is calling them in reference to the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger - include hundreds of communiqué’s relating to Northern Ireland, and in particular Dungannon and Tyrone.

The communications include a collection of diplomatic and intelligence reports on the activities of the IRA and loyalist paramilitaries in the Dungannon area, as well as local Civil Rights campaigners such as Fr Denis Faul, the SDLP’s Austin Currie and Bernadette McAliskey.

As well as the far-fetched theory that the Provisional IRA were planning to blow up the US base in Derry, the newly-accessible cables also refer to senior republicans’ positions in the leadership of the Provisionals and the newly-formed Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP).

The cables chart the grim toll of bombings and shootings in Tyrone and Armagh’s so-called ‘murder triangle’, almost on a weekly basis.

One sent in April 1975 described how Austin Currie, the ‘convention candidate from the Socialist Democratic and Labour Party’ attacked the security forces for failing to apprehend a ‘Protestant killer gang’ operating in the area, which had killed 19 Catholics in the past three years.

Another cable from November 1975, labels Fr Denis Faul ‘a prominent pamphleteer in cause against British presence’, and mentions how he and Currie had condemned IRA attacks on the RUC.

The communication remarks how Dungannon has been the ‘scene of particularly vicious sectarian attacks on Catholics presumably by members of Ulster Volunteer Force or Associate Protestant Action Force’.

Embassy officials also offered a security analysis of the security situation in Tyrone during 1975. They said that Tyrone was the best example of the Official and Provisional IRA cooperating so closely that it was difficult to distinguish a clear dividing line between them.

“In other cases”, the cable reads, “the officials are stockpiling guns for their own future use. Guns are usually buried. Given dampness of Irish soil, it is easy to see why Provos refer scornfully to officials as ‘the rusties’. From the point of view of American policy, however, we cannot assume officials’ guns will remain rusty.

Another cable described how the IRA had embarrassed the Irish government by hijacking a helicopter owned by a private company in Donegal and using it to drop homemade bombs in milk churns on a police barracks in Strabane.

“Bombs failed to explode but the adventure, clumsy as it was, has provided another propaganda boost for Provos. Government of Ireland is visibly embarrassed, especially since this is second hijacking from same firm, and since it followed closely on vehemently anti-IRA speech by Justice Minister.”

The cable went on to say: “Since incident did not kill anyone, there is inevitable human tendency to laugh at opera-bouffe aspects. We do not doubt, however, that Provos intended bombs to explode, had they done so, they could have done considerable damage, since they missed barracks and landed in settled area.”

In a cable completely unrelated to the Troubles, the US embassy filed a glowing report on Dungannon woman, Miss Darine McCluskey, born July 22, 1946.

The US official was obviously charmed by Miss McCluskey’s talents, describing her as ‘highly intelligent and dynamic, and possesses a deep sense of conviction to make positive contribution to Irish society. In our view, an excellent representative of Ireland’s women.”

The cable highly recommended her for a trip to the US in which she was to study American women’s organisations and women’s pressure groups.