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banner Tuesday, 1 January, 2002, 10:43 GMT
Transcripts: Lord Carver - Chief of the General Staff
Lord Carver
Lord Carver was Chief of the General Staff in 1971
Lord Carver was Chief of the General Staff from 1971-1973 and became the British resident Commissioner in Rhodesia between 1977-1978.

Documents released under the 30-year rule reveal how much the British government were leaned on in 1971 by the Irish Prime Minister, Brian Faulkner to sanction a policy of internment.

Lord Carver died on 12 December 2001. Before he died, he spoke to UK Confidential about his role in the military preparations for internment.



Did you feel that internment was militarily a feasible idea?

At the time I took over as Chief of the General Staff on 1 April, preparations were being made in case internment was introduced.

Two main preparations being the conversion of what came to be known as the Maze from an outfield camp and the holding in Belfast of HMS Maidstone, an accommodation ship.

I accepted... that the time would come when internment of some sort would be introduced.

Lord Carver

The whole progress of making preparations was greatly delayed by endless arguments about who was to pay for it, but I mean I think I accepted at the time, and most people did that the time would come when internment of some sort would be introduced.


So was there a lot of pressure from Faulkner in particular that internment was the best way of going ahead?

One needs to look at the situation as it was a bit later. We'd got through the marching season in July - the normal marching season - without any real difficulty by largely flooding the streets of Belfast with the large numbers of soldiers.

So we'd got through the 12 July and those other celebrations, but then coming up on 12 August would be the Apprentice Boys' March in Londonderry.

And at that time, there was a good deal of criticism, particularly in Unionist circles about how the security forces were really not being very effective.

There were an increasing number of incidents of various sorts, rioting, a good deal of street rioting, explosions, murders. The numbers were increasing and yet the security forces didn't seem to be able to do anything about it, and it was considered important to do more about it before the Apprentice Boys' March on 12 August.

The problem was of course, what could you do. These people could be arrested and charged in the courts but the RUC had great difficulty in arresting, and if the soldiers went in and picked somebody up, and handed them over to the police - what was going to be done with them.

They were not going to be convicted in the courts, they would just have to be released. So there was a good deal of discussion about it. But one of the reasons that, well there were a number of reasons why, the department and I myself think, did not want to see it.

First of all there was no agreement on how many or who should be interned and secondly the preparations were not really ready, and thirdly were all the political objections to internment.

And concern as is always the case when you shut up a lot of people all together who are troublemakers that they use their detention centre as a place for plotting more trouble.

Lord Carver's Career
1915 - Richard Michael Power Carver born Bletchingley, Surrey
1958-59 - Director of Plans, War Office
1966-67 - Commander, Far East Land Forces
1971-73 - Chief of the General Staff
1973-76 - Chief of the Defence Staff
1977 - Created Baron Carver
1977-78 - British Resident Commissioner in Rhodesia

So General Tuzo suggested - as something to show that the forces were doing something anyway - a policy of harassing known leaders picking them up, interrogating them and then letting them go again. It was thought that you would be seen to be doing something, and secondly it might have an effect on interfering on what they were trying to do.

Well, a plan was then produced in co-operation with the RUC, for an operation at the end of July, in which about a hundred IRA sympathisers and activists would be picked up, their houses searched, they would be interrogated and then they would be released again, unless sufficient evidence could be found, such as the fact that their house was stuffed full of weapons - and that was what was intended.

Unfortunately, Reggie Maudling, because there was no Northern Ireland Office in those days, just the Home Office. Reggie Maudling blew this up, making an announcement that this was going to be something of a far greater scale and far more important than it obviously was going to be, and where it actually took place, and as a result of it, 20 people were arrested, and hardly any weapons were to be found at all.

It was seen to be a terrible flop, so then the temperature began to rise over this whole question of what was going to be done for the Apprentice Boys' March and there was talk of banning the march altogether, and that caused a major confrontation between Faulkner and his Unionists and Paisley and his lot.

Paisley took that line that it was a disgrace, it would be a disgrace giving way to terrorism, to abandon this historic march, just because of the trouble made by the Republicans, the IRA in Londonderry, and in the to and fro and the arguments about this, Paisley demanded that if there were to be a march, then the quid pro quo must be the introduction of internment.

This was called the double act. Well Faulkner said that he made a declaration and said that he would not introduce internment unless the general, the GOC, General Tuzo and the head of the RUC Graham Shillington, said that it was necessary on security grounds and the British Government agreed to it. He'd made that announcement.

Well he came over to London to see Lord Carrington, Secretary of State for Defence on 3 August, and they had a long talk and my advice based on General Tuzo's advice at the time was that there was no need to ban the march in Londonderry.

It could be re-routed as indeed it has been since then. It could be re-routed in a way to be less provocative and then less lead to an inter-sectarian clash to the bog south and that with the sufficient troops that we could provide, we should ride it through, and that there was no need, therefore, there was no need for internment - that was our consistent advice.

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