Page last updated at 21:59 GMT, Monday, 29 December 2008

British feared La Mon 'backlash'

By Dr Eamon Phoenix

La Mon
The British government feared a loyalist backlash after the IRA bombed La Mon

The British government feared a loyalist backlash against the nationalist population in the wake of the atrocity at the La Mon Hotel on 17 February, 1978.

Twelve people, all Protestants, were killed and 23 injured by an IRA incendiary bomb at the north Down hotel.

Staff had just begun to clear the building after an anonymous telephone warning when the bomb exploded on a window sill.

Four hundred people were in the building when the explosion created a fireball which swept through the packed dining room.

The incident was raised by the NI secretary Roy Mason at a meeting with the Irish foreign minister, Michael O'Kennedy, in Dublin on 5 May.

Mr Mason told Mr O'Kennedy that "after La Mon he had been worried about a loyalist backlash but he was glad that none had taken place".

He said: "A backlash was nevertheless an ever-present threat. It could be triggered by a speech from the south which seemed to pose a political threat at a time when all the violence in the north seemed to come from the Provisional IRA."

Mr O'Kennedy replied that his government's speeches should not be interpreted as being threatening.

Mr Mason said that it was the interpretation by "extreme Protestants" that counted which is why "it was so vital to keep the flavour of consent" in public pronouncements.

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