Dublin rejected UK claims it was ‘too pernickety’ about Border incursions

British saw blowing up cross-Border road as a response to Thatcher claims that the IRA was engaging in ‘guerrilla warfare’

Irish authorities rejected UK claims they were being “too pernickety” about British army incursions over the Border during the Troubles.

A secret communique from an Irish official in Belfast to senior colleagues in Dublin relayed British concerns that a degree of “niggle” had entered cross-Border security co-operation.

The September 1990 exchange, which has been released after 30 years, described British frustration that the Irish authorities complained about every incursion that took place no matter how minor.

The official said there had “always been a feeling on the part of the Northern authorities that we should not be too pernickety about incursions”.


The official described a conservation with a British counterpart in which security issues were discussed.

The exchanges touched on the British blowing up a cross-Border road near Kinawley, Co Fermanagh.

The message to Dublin said the British had characterised this move as a response to recent claims by prime minister Margaret Thatcher that the IRA was engaging in “guerrilla warfare”, and questioned the commitment of the Irish authorities to defeating the paramilitary group.

The Irish official said another British official said “the impetus provided by Mrs Thatcher’s remarks may have inspired a new approach to security leading to an initiative such as this road closure”.


On the issue of cross-Border incursions by security forces, the Irish official said they had explained to their British counterpart why they raised concerns about each incident.

A number of reasons were outlined, including the potential risk of attack on British security forces while they were in the Republic.

“Furthermore, if we did not protest all incursions we ran the risk that the Northern security forces would take it that we are willing to tolerate at least some incursions,” the official said (file reference 2020/17/36).

“I expressed some surprise that the British side should resent this, granted that they had repeatedly assured us that their own operating instructions to the British army prohibited incursions and, indeed, that disciplinary action had been taken in a number of cases.” – PA