BRITISH PLANNED GUN LAW TO RULE NORTH
Plans for a drastic escalation of the war in 1973, including
the shooting of unarmed civilians, have been revealed in
secret papers released in London.
The proposed "Operation Folklore" anticipated a scenario in
which the British authorities would impose control on the
North of Ireland through an intensive military assault.
The operation would have included explicitly permitting
British soldiers to shoot unarmed Irish citizens.
Military exemption from due process was to be extended to
cover opening fire on any person who failed to halt when
challenged during a curfew, or on any person who failed to
halt when challenged in an area designated as "special" by the
British Army chiefs -- presumably nationalist areas.
A hand-written note by a British official commented: "We would
just have to ignore protestations from the Republic."
Plans for Operation Folklore were laid in the wake of
Operation Motorman which secured the British Army's occupation
of republican areas in Belfast and Derry in 1972.
The hardline policy is thought to have had its first outing in
Derry in January 1972 with the Bloody Sunday massacre. Last
year's release of documents revealed that the British
government had also anticipated a massive slaughter in
Operation Motorman, which miraculously claimed only two lives.
"We feel strongly that in the wholly abnormal situation
envisaged, it would be essential for a soldier to be able to
open fire without fear of legal penalty in certain
circumstances," Mr Anthony Stephens, of the British Ministry
of Defence, wrote.
Indemnifying British soldiers from prosecution had been under
consideration for some time. But for the purposes of Operation
Folklore, an Act of Indemnity was deemed insufficient.
A drastic extension of existing powers of arrest, search and
detention was also envisaged and all necessary measures would,
be introduced "whatever the attitude of the government of the
A memorandum by an official at the Foreign Office from
December 1973 underlines the British government's
determination: "Our overriding concern would have to be to
safeguard the security of the realm, even if in so doing some
susceptibilities in the Republic had to be disregarded."
* Further analysis of the selection of 1973 documents released
will be published here later in the week.