FORMER Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald was so opposed to Sinn Féin as a political force that he reached out to his rival Charles Haughey, according to papers from 1985.
The National Archive of Ireland released the correspondence between the former Taoisigh in which Fine Gael leader Mr Fitzgerald called Sinn Féin’s support of the IRA “abhorrent”.
The papers, released under the 30-year rule that allows Irish Government files to be released to the public, show tension bubbling under the surface in what was a poignant year for Ireland.
November 1985 saw the British and Irish Governments come together at Hillsborough Castle in Co. Down to sign the Anglo Irish Agreement, which aimed to bring an end to the Troubles in the North of Ireland.
At this time, Sinn Féin politicians refused to sit in either the Dáil or the House of Commons, sticking to their ultimate goal of a united Ireland – while senior party members were accused by both the Irish and British Governments of holding IRA memberships.
Most recently, Sinn Féin came under fire when the PSNI acknowledged the continuous existence of the IRA – with Stormont colleagues refused to work with the party despite its leader Gerry Adams saying the comments were unfounded.
Mr Fitzgerald was outspoken in his outright condemnation of both the IRA and Sinn Féin’s alleged support of the organisation.
Though a political nemesis of Mr Haughey, he reached out to the Fianna Fáil leader in an effort to keep the increasingly popular Sinn Féin out of power.
“I think you will agree with me that the spectacle of Sinn Féin’s Annual Conferences which consistently support the IRA’s campaign of violence is totally abhorrent,” he wrote.
His comments were in response to Sinn Féin’s continued annual conferences, which were held in the splendour of Dublin’s Mansion House.
In the letter, dated January 1985, he asked Mr Haughey to support his bid to have Mansion House closed off to future Sinn Féin meetings.
The papers also revealed a heated debate between Mr Fitzgerald and Archbishop John O’Connor of New York in May 1985.
Mr Fitzgerald suggested that Catholic bishops in the US issue an “unconditional condemnation of IRA violence” – but Archbishop O’Connor refused, saying he had already condemned violence from all sides.
The notes from the meeting reveal that Archbishop O’Connor said in a homily during one of his services that he was unable to condone “both physical violence and moral violence” in Ireland.
In response, Mr Fitzgerald said: “It was wrong to equate what is done by security forces trying to maintain law and order with the violence of the bomb and bullet.”
But Mr Fitzgerald’s staunch anti-IRA comments have been criticised, with Catholic priest Fr Seán McManus saying he was “a disgrace”.
Fr McManus, established Irish National Caucus Inc., a Washington DC-based group, which describes itself as a human rights organisation dedicated to getting the US to stand up for justice and peace in Ireland.
“Further proof, not that it’s needed, that Garret Fitzgerald was a useless Irishman— a total quisling,” Fermanagh native Fr McManus wrote on the site.
“Had he remained as Taoiseach, there would never have been a peace process. He would have simply continued to aid and abet British oppression in Ireland. The man was a disgrace.”