Northern Ireland

NI state papers: Daly said Sinn Féin success 'vote of anger'

Bishop Cathal Daly
Image caption Bishop Cathal Daly said Sinn Féin's performance in the 1982 assembly election did not signify widespread Catholic support for the IRA

Sinn Féin winning 10% of the vote in the assembly elections of 1982 was "a vote of anger and frustration", according to Bishop Cathal Daly.

Bishop Daly told NI Secretary Jim Prior that the vote did not indicate a groundswell of Catholic support for the IRA, newly released state papers show.

Bishop Daly began the Stormont Castle meeting by raising the security situation following a series of murders by the IRA, INLA and loyalists.

He said people were worried and scared.

"He did not see the recent Sinn Féin vote in the assembly elections as being a vote for the IRA," the papers state.

"It was a vote of anger, frustration and resentment at being no closer to a solution after many years. It was an irrational reaction from a frustrated community.

"Most people knew the IRA for what they were. They were oppressed by the IRA in their communities. He was full of admiration for the excellent work of the RUC, particularly with community relations in west Belfast.

"Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the Army. They were perceived as harassing the local community, particularly the young."

Dr Daly, who was Catholic bishop of Down and Connor at the time, asked that more training should be given to the Army in this area.

SDLP performance

Turning to the political situation, Dr Daly said that the SDLP had done better in the elections than their efforts deserved.

"They lacked a major political figure in Belfast. They could not run Belfast from Derry. Unlike Sinn Féin, who had worked very hard for the community, the SDLP had maintained no significant presence in West Belfast," the papers say.

The bishop accepted that the search needed to go on for an acceptable political solution.

Image caption Bishop Daly said that Divis Flats 'had been a disaster'

He regretted the breakdown in relations with the Republic of Ireland, particularly as there would have been considerable advantage in securing cooperation with the "traditional republican element in Fianna Fáil".

Turning to housing, Bishop Daly welcomed the Housing Executive's policy on housing development.

"The Divis Flats had been a disaster and should not be repeated. It was important to retain established communities and the support of the extended family," the papers say.

The secretary of state thanked the bishop for his outspoken condemnation of violence.

He regretted the SDLP's attitude to the assembly and the difficult relations with the Republic.

He hoped that the SDLP could be persuaded to see that the assembly was in their best interests and, while he would look for opportunities to improve relations with the Republic, he was not sure if much progress could be made in present circumstances.

Replying, Bishop Daly thanked Mr Prior for taking a positive and non-censorious approach.