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Wednesday, October 20, 1999 Published at 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Lynch speech led to 'invasion' fears

Jack Lynch (right) met Northern Ireland PM Terence O'Neill in 1967

A speech by the then Irish premier Jack Lynch when the troubles broke out in 1969 raised fears that Northern Ireland would be invaded by the Republic of Ireland

Ulster Unionist deputy leader John Taylor, who was then a junior minister in the Northern Ireland Government, was recalling the dramatic events of 30 years ago following news of Mr Lynch's death in Dublin.

A mass evacuation of nationalist areas of Belfast when loyalist mobs set fire to the homes of Catholics and RUC B Special policemen attacked them provided the backdrop when Mr Lynch made his controversial speech.

"It is clear also that the Irish government can no longer stand by and see innocent people injured or perhaps worse," he said.

He alleged the Stormont government had lost control of the situation and called for United Nations peace-keeping troops to be sent to Northern Ireland.

According to John Taylor, who was then a Junior Home Affairs minister in the Stormont administration, the former Taoiseach's speech led to fears being raised right across Northern Ireland of an invasion by Irish troops.

Mr Taylor recalled being sent to the Royal Ulster Constabulary headquarters by Northern Ireland Prime Minister James Chichester Clarke following the speech..

He was told to stay there alongside the RUC Inspector General (Chief Constable equivalent in 1969) while the perceived emergency provoked by Mr Lynch's broadcast persisted.

Eventually the emergency passed as the Irish army only moved field hospitals to border areas such as Donegal to treat injured nationalist people unwilling to undergo medical care in Northern Ireland hospitals.

[ image: John Taylor: Lynch speech raised invasion fears dramatically]
John Taylor: Lynch speech raised invasion fears dramatically
"It was a lot of hot air - but the speech did arouse passions in Northern Ireland dramatically," said Mr Taylor.

"The nationalist community were expectant of an Irish army invasion and the unionist community were likewise horrified at the thought of such an invasion and what its implications were."

However, he pointed out that Irish troops had been moved north of Dundalk, just a short distance from the border.

The former Irish Taoiseach's involvement with Northern Ireland began shortly after he succeeeded Sean Lemass as Irish premier in 1966.

Arms plot

A year later he was in Stormont meeting the Northern Ireland Prime Minister Terence O'Neill. On that occasion, he was greeted by a youthful Ian Paisley who famously threw a snowball at the Dublin premier.

Jack Lynch's role in the events which led to the republic's Arms Trial in 1970 also aroused controversy in Northern Ireland.

The trial followed reports alleging two Irish government ministers had plotted to smuggle arms to nationalists in Northern Ireland.

Jack Lynch sacked both Charles Haughey, who was to succeed him as Fianna Fail leader and Taoiseach in 1979, and Neil Blaney. The two were acquitted of the charges against them at the subsequent trial.

Mr Lynch is credited with steering his party towards a less trenchant and more pragmatic approach to Northern Ireland when he returned to power in 1977 following a period in opposition.

This became evident when, shortly before his retirement, he sanctioned more co-operation with British security forces following the IRA murder of Lord Mountbatten off the Co Sligo coast in 1979.

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