A joint communique on security measures (1969)

In August 1969 several British and Northern Ireland ministers – including prime ministers Harold Wilson and James Chichester-Clark – met in London to discuss security measures in light of the growing unrest in Northern Ireland. This communique provides an overview of their plans, including an increase in responsibilities for the British military and the gradual withdrawal of the controversial Special Constabulary:

“In a six-hour discussion the whole situation in Northern Ireland was reviewed. It was agreed that the GOC [General Officer Commanding] Northern Ireland will with immediate effect assume overall responsibility for security operations. He will continue to be responsible directly to the Ministry of Defence but will work in the closest cooperation with the Northern Ireland government and the Inspector-General of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. For all security operations the GOC will have full control of the deployment and tasks of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. For normal police duties outside the field of security the Royal Ulster Constabulary will remain answerable to the Inspector-General who will be responsible to the Northern Ireland Government.

The GOC will assume full command and control of the Ulster Special Constabulary for all purposes including their organisation, deployment, tasks and arms. Their employment by the Northern Ireland Government in riot and crowd control was always envisaged as a purely temporary measure.

With the increased deployment of the Army and the assumption by the GOC of operational control of all the security forces, it will be possible for the Special Constabulary to be progressively and rapidly relieved of these temporary duties at his discretion, starting in the cities…

The Northern Ireland Ministers agreed that an appeal should be made to all members of the public to hand in unauthorised weapons under an amnesty. In order that British troops can be withdrawn from the internal security role at the earliest possible moment, the two governments will discuss as a matter of urgency the future of the civilian security services of Northern Ireland which will take over when the troops withdraw.

Major Chichester-Clark said that it was the intention of the Northern Ireland Government to set up forthwith an impartial investigation into the recent grave public disorders. Further details will be announced very shortly… The two governments agreed to a joint declaration on the principles which should govern their future actions. The Ministers agreed to meet again early in September.”