Jack Lynch on violence in Northern Ireland (1969)




In August 1969 Irish taoiseach Jack Lynch responded to the worsening violence in Northern Ireland by addressing the Republic on television. Lynch’s angry and at times provocative response called on the British to request United Nations peacekeepers – and for immediate talks on the reunification of Ireland:



“It is with deep sadness that you and I, Irish men and women of goodwill, have learned of the tragic events which have been taking place in Derry and elsewhere in the North in recent days.

Irishmen in every part of his island have made known their concern at these events. This concern is heightened by the realisation that the spirit of reform and inter-communal cooperation has given way to the forces of sectarianism and prejudice. All people of goodwill must feel saddened and disappointed at this backward turn in events and must be apprehensive for the future.

The government fully shares these feelings and I wish to repeat that we deplore sectarianism and intolerance in all their forms, wherever they occur. The government has been very patient and has acted with great restraint over several months past. While we made our views known to the British government on a number of occasions, both by direct contact and through our diplomatic representatives in London, we were careful to do nothing that would exacerbate the situation.

But it is clear now that the situation cannot be allowed to continue. It is evident also that the Stormont government is no longer in control of the situation. Indeed, the present situation is the inevitable outcome of the policies pursued for decades by successive Stormont governments. It is clear also that the Irish government can no longer stand by and see innocent people injured, and perhaps worse.

It is obvious that the RUC [Royal Ulster Constabulary] is no longer accepted as an impartial police force. Neither would the employment of British troops be acceptable, nor would they be likely to restore peaceful conditions, certainly not in the long term. The Irish government has therefore requested the British government to apply immediately to the United Nations for the urgent dispatch of a peace-keeping force to the Six Counties of Northern Ireland… We have also asked the British government to see to it that police attacks on the people of Derry should cease immediately.

Very many people have been injured, some of them seriously. We know that many of these do not wish to be treated in Six County hospitals. We have therefore directed the Irish Army to have field hospitals established in County Donegal, adjacent to Derry, and at other points along the border where they may be necessary.

Recognising that the reunification of the national territory can provide the only permanent solution to the problem, it is our intention to request the British government to enter into early negotiations with the Irish government to review the present constitutional position of the Six Counties of Northern Ireland…

All men and women of goodwill will hope and pray that the present deplorable and distressing situation will not further deteriorate, but that it will soon be ended. Firstly by the granting of full equality of citizenship to every man and woman in the Six County area, regardless of class, creed or political persuasion, and eventually by the restoration of the historic unity of our country.”

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