How much did Lynch know?

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 4 (Jul/Aug 2009), Troubles in Northern Ireland, Volume 17

Captain James J. Kelly, described elsewhere in this issue (p. 37) as ‘the “agent” of Messrs. Haughey, Blaney and Boland’ in the attempt to import and distribute arms to Northern Catholics, always maintained that he was implementing government policy. He died on 16 July 2003. (Victor Patterson)

Captain James J. Kelly, described elsewhere in this issue (p. 37) as ‘the “agent” of Messrs. Haughey, Blaney and Boland’ in the attempt to import and distribute arms to Northern Catholics, always maintained that he was implementing government policy. He died on 16 July 2003. (Victor Patterson)

Ought he to have known about that attempt to import arms? The answer is certainly ‘yes’. But the burden of evidence that I have examined leads me to conclude that he did not know. What was evident in those critical weeks was a catastrophic breakdown in the proven decision-making system in the civil service, military intelligence, the Department of Justice and, in two cases, involving cabinet ministers. ‘Dysfunctional’ may be too strong a word to describe that phenomenon. But they were extraordinary times and some people, believing they were living in a time of great emergency, felt that precedent and procedures could be left to one side. That led to a huge government systems failure in March and April 1970.

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