08 January 2012

THe power of half a million Irish men and women

Last week the Irish Independent carried an item from the Irish governmental archives of 1981. This one concerned a secret contingency plans for a World War Three.

Classified files disclose arguments by Irish  intelligence services for a "friendly" pact with the UK in the event of a threatened nuclear holocaust.

A four-page document, from February 23, 1981 titled 'The Strategic Importance of Ireland to the UK in Times of War', was drawn up in preparation for a feared outbreak of atomic war between the Soviets and the western world.

Despite its official neutrality, the report warns that Ireland may not have been spared a nuclear strike, with Shannon and Bantry Bay pinpointed as likely targets. (Shannon being a major airport and Bantry being the site of a massive oil terminal)

It outlines potential help to Britain "bearing in mind that one of the guiding principles of nuclear warfare is the dispersal of forces and facilities so as to present as small a target as possible to the enemy".

In a pact, Ireland could have offered "over 500,000 of its citizens fit for military service" as well as sites for missiles, 38 airfields, six major and 38 minor ports, a potential supply of oil and a staging post for reinforcements from THe USA and Canada.

Siting radar sites along the west and south coasts could have helped detect an imminent nuclear strike on the UK and allow it to be intercepted further out in the Atlantic.  Furthermore, the use of ports in Ireland would have improved the protection of the English Channel and communication with Europe, while boosting supply routes for military reinforcements, food and fuel.

Such help would have allowed the UK to "face East in the confidence that the West flank is more secure", the report states.  It adds that all the benefits of Ireland acting as a British ally would also apply to the rest of western Europe.

Under such a scenario, European governments exiled by a Soviet invasion and "free forces" could have taken refuge in Ireland and continue their struggle. The intelligence services, based at Army headquarters, write that the UK had long been seriously concerned that Ireland's warning and monitoring system was "very unreliable".

The report reveals that UK's nuclear Warning and Monitoring Organisation (UKWMO) did not accept there would not have been any direct strikes on Ireland in the event of a war. "The UKWMO take the view that there is a real immediate danger to them from nuclear bursts either in the Atlantic off our west coast, or on our territory where places like Shannon, Bantry and other useful installations would be taken out as interdiction targets," it states.

The intelligence suggests a deal could have removed the "trivial but still annoying" practice of Britain not admitting to NATO partners that Ireland is in direct contact with two of its nuclear surveillance installations -- in Lisburn and near Bath. Ireland would have exchanged information "as a matter of course in the event of a nuclear attack", it adds.

The report concludes that Ireland's strategic importance to Britain had increased because of the short timescale of a nuclear attack. Early warning systems on Irish territory "could mean the difference between success and failure of any reaction to or defence against such an attack", it states.

Four pages is hardy an in depth report on the matter  and I wonder where the 500,000 military fit civilians would come from , or how the definition   itay fir would be tinkered with to ensure that there such a number available! If Ireland could find that number I wonder what they would use for uniforms and weapons, given that the total strength of Irish Armed forces would have been around 10,000; the Territorial Army equivalent,the FCA as it was called at the time, would have been around twice the size

It is not outwith the realms of possibility that Ireland may have been hit during a nuclear war. The USSR had rather more weapons that than it did targets  (as did the USA but I doubt even the US military at their stupidest would have targeted a friendly state!), so it might just have a couple of missiles lobbed at lesser targets for the purpose of interdiction, especially if  there was any possibility that Ireland may provide the assistance suggested.

Even though Ireland would almost certainly have been in a rather better state after a nuckear war than most of Europe (and certainly far better off than the eastern edge of London, I'm sure) but things would have been pretty grim, to say the least!

Some of the Irish Government, would have been relatively safe, operating perhaps from the now decommissioned shelter under the Custume Barracks in Athlone (or perhaps somewhere else - I am most definitely no expert on Irish Civil Defence plans) but that is the way of things everywhere 


susan said...

Goodness knows the world itself can throw enough disasters our way. Some things don't bear thinking about.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

It all looks like a typical er... wanking exercise of some government official with spare time on his/her hand. Which is not a rare status, I guess.

As for half a mil potential soldiers: what exactly they are supposed to do in wartime? Throw Guinness cans at the enemy?

jams o donnell said...

I know Susan!

Well it would at least be fun drinking the Guinness first I suppose!