State Papers: Hardline loyalists wanted revenge after Canary Wharf

Hard-line loyalist paramilitaries wanted to launch a bombing campaign in the Republic in response to the IRA’s 1996 Canary Wharf attack.

Secret documents released as part of the state archives show the government was made aware of the difficulties loyalist leaders were having in preventing hardliners in paramilitary groups from acting in response to the end of the IRA ceasefire.

Government officials were warned after Anglo-Irish Secretariat briefings between loyalist political leaders and Irish diplomats that hardliners wanted economic targets in the Republic to suffer in the same way that the IRA had damaged economic targets in Northern Ireland and London.

The attack on Canary Wharf in February 1996, which marked the end of the IRA’s first ceasefire, killed two people, injured 100 and caused millions of dollars in damage in London’s Docklands.

Irish officials have been warned after meetings with Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) leader David Ervine that hard-line elements in some loyalist paramilitary groups are targeting the republic.

The PUP was closely associated with the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

Mr Ervine warned Irish diplomats he was “deeply pessimistic” about the survival of the loyalist truce in the face of the IRA’s actions.

He said loyalist paramilitaries were likely to take unclaimed retaliation against IRA attacks.

The biggest concern, however, was that hardliners would take control and marginalize the combined loyalist military command that had been instrumental in ensuring the loyalist truce was respected.

Mr Ervine warned Irish officials that some hardline loyalists wanted full paramilitary operations to resume.

“It was only a matter of time, Ervine suggested, before hardliners managed to explicitly end the (loyalist) truce,” read a memo.

Irish officials took note of Mr Ervine’s reference to the fact that senior loyalist leaders were struggling to “keep them [hardliners] away from the border”.

The PUP official argued that loyalist paramilitaries should not break the ceasefire as the IRA had done.

Mr Ervine felt that because economic targets in Britain had been attacked, convictions for attacking economic targets in the Republic were “dumbed down”.

The concern was that a collapse of the loyalist truce would result in older, quieter leaders within loyalist paramilitary groups being replaced by younger “more volatile…outsider” paramilitaries.

Irish officials were also briefed by Mr Ervine on the alleged links between the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) and elements within the DUP.

The LVF, whose most notorious commander was Billy ‘King Rat’ Wright, became known for sectarian killings, many committed in direct response to IRA attacks.

Founded as a splinter group of the UVF, the LVF waged a bitter struggle for support within the union and loyalist community.

Mr Ervine believed some die-hard DUP members were working with LVF officials to stoke tensions in the North. State Papers: Hardline loyalists wanted revenge after Canary Wharf

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