State Papers 1985 confirm: Ireland was warned by top Thatcher aide that Britain was bugging Irish diplomats

SECRET DOCUMENTS have confirmed for the first time that the British spied on Irish Embassy officials during the negotiations leading up to the Hillsborough Agreement.
Garret FitzGerald was sent a warning about intelligence bugging in March 1985, some two years before he denied his diplomats in London were being spied on.
Documents released by the National Archives under the 30-year rule reveal a senior Irish Embassy official claimed the 2nd Earl of Gowrie, a former Northern Ireland minister, told him about the bugging.
His warning was just eight months before the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed at Hillsborough on November 15, 1985 and it came during a period of intense negotiations between both sides.
The details of the warning were relayed in a secret document that was brought from London to Dublin by a courier – possibly an Aer Lingus pilot – and hand delivered to Dr FitzGerald.
The then Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Barry and the then Tanaiste Dick Spring were also on the distribution list for the document embassy official Richard Ryan sent on March 27, 1985.
It followed a lunch meeting he said he had had with the 76-year-old Donegal-born peer.
At that meeting, Lord Gowrie is said to have referenced an incident in which the contents of a coded telex Mr Ryan had sent from the Irish Embassy ended up in the hands of agents at the UK’s intelligence centre GCHQ in Cheltenham.
The telex had referenced something Richard Needham, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Prior’s private secretary from 1983 until 1984, had told Mr Ryan.
It was, Mr Ryan said, intercepted by British intelligence agents and appears to have got Mr Needham, who had to apologise to Mrs Thatcher years when he was caught referring to her as a ‘cow’ in a bugged phone call, into trouble.
In Mr Ryan’s letter, which will be made public by the National Archives on Monday, January 4, the embassy official said Lord Gowrie ‘mentioned the difficulty which I had caused for Richard Needham last year (when a coded telex came back to the Government via Cheltenham) and asked that we should do our reporting in a secure way for his sake.’
And he revealed: ‘He (Lord Gowrie) asked that the Ambassador and I should be very aware of blanket eaves-dropping in our communications with Dublin and that we should not allow our special relationship with him (which is known to the Prime Minister and may well be one of the reasons for him being brought in at this time) to lead to difficulties.’
Detailed claims that the Irish Embassy in London was being bugged were first made public in a 1987 article by a UK newspaper.
But in a subsequent Glasgow Herald article on January 26, 1987, it was reported that Dr FitzGerald had ‘firmly stamped on the speculation of a diplomatic incident over Britain’s alleged bugging of his London Embassy’.
The report said that ‘he stressed there was no evidence that the British Secret Service had listened into the embassies operations and questioned whether they would want to bother “spending time listening to what we are saying to each other”.’
Elsewhere in Mr Ryan’s letter, he said: ‘(Lord) Gowrie feels honoured that the Prime Minister has asked him to join the Cabinet sub-committee which has just been set up.
‘He has thought for some time that a certain suspicion attaches to him on Irish affairs and, while delighted with the invitation from her, he feels he must proceed with great care in order not to compromise in any way the objectivity that is essential to the job.’

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