FBI Releases Files on Queen Elizabeth II Revealing Fears of ‘Pervasive’ IRA Threats
Prior to Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to San Francisco in 1983, a city police officer who regularly frequented an Irish pub tipped off federal agents of a potential threat to the Queen from an Irish Republican Army sympathizer who was determined to get revenge for his daughter’s death, newly released FBI tapes show.
The unidentified police officer claimed that on February 4, 1983 – about a month before Ronald and Nancy Reagan hosted a visit from the Queen and Prince Philip – he received a phone call from a man he knew of the pub “who claimed his daughter was killed in Northern Ireland by a rubber bullet”, according to a confidential FBI ticker.
“This man also claimed he was going to attempt to harm Queen Elizabeth and would either do so by dropping an object from the Golden Gate Bridge onto the Royal Yacht Britannia as it sails below or by attempting to kill Queen Elizabeth while visiting Yosemite National Park,” the memo reads.
The teletype is among 102 pages of FBI documents on Elizabeth that were released late Monday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by NBC News and other media to the agency following the Queen’s death on September 8.
The recordings — posted to The Vault, the FBI’s public website where public records are often posted — mostly reflect standard behind-the-scenes communications about a visiting head of state, including memos shared by Federal agents, itineraries, clippings and other documents largely chronicled the Queen’s various visits to the United States, dating back to 1976.
Although the tapes – some of which are heavily redacted – do not indicate that the threat from San Francisco ever developed beyond the words of an angry pub patron, they clearly reflect a lingering source of potential danger to the queen whenever she visits the United States: the IRA and its sympathizers.
Formed in the late 1960s as a secret armed wing of the political movement Sinn Féin, the modern version of the Irish Republican Army was dedicated to withdrawing British forces from Northern Ireland and unifying Ireland, often through violent means.
Documents show FBI agents routinely shared intelligence and preparations with US Secret Service, local police and other law enforcement about the IRA and its sympathizers before and during visits of State of the Queen.
While traveling to New York for America’s Bicentennial celebrations at Battery Park in 1976, a New York Police Department intelligence detective informed the FBI that there were no arrests, but noted that a warning had been issued to a pilot of a small plane for flying over the park with a sign reading ‘England get out of Ireland’.
The FBI’s concerns about potential IRA violence against members of the royal family were not unfounded. In 1979, Elizabeth’s second cousin, Lord “Dickie” Mountbatten – a close confidant of Prince Charles at the time – was killed in an IRA bombing in Ireland.
In 1989, prior to the Queen’s visit to the East Coast and parts of the Southern United States, an internal FBI memo noted that, although she knows of no specific danger, “the possibility of threats to the monarchy British is always present on behalf of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
“Boston and New York are urged to remain alert to any threats against Queen Elizabeth II from members of the IRA and to provide them immediately to Louisville,” the memo added.
Two years later, during a 1991 visit when the Queen and President George Bush were planning to attend a Baltimore Orioles baseball game by helicopter, FBI agents shared intelligence with the Secret Service that “Irish groups” were planning protests at Memorial Stadium.
A teletype about the 1991 baseball stadium visit quoted an article published in the ‘Philadelphia Irish Newspaper’ which stated that “anti-British feelings are running high due to the well-publicized injustices inflicted on the Birmingham Six by the corrupt English justice system and the recent rash of brutal murders of unarmed Irish nationalists in all six counties by loyalist death squads.
The ‘Birmingham Six’ were six Irishmen wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for the IRA bombing of two pubs in Birmingham, England in 1974. Their convictions were overturned in 1991, months before the visit of the Queen.
While the FBI memo said the article contained “no threats against the President or the Queen”, it said its content “could be considered inflammatory” and that “an Irish group had booked a large number of tickets stand” for the match. .
The FBI often gleaned details from published news articles to help identify groups planning to protest the Queen’s visits, and kept in touch with local police departments and its “assets” within the groups. of protest, according to the records.
For the 1983 visit to San Francisco, police had warned the FBI that due to the wide variety of protesters against Reagan and the Queen during his visit, “it will be very difficult to anticipate and prevent incidents which may ’embarrass the queen or queen’. President.”
But records do not indicate that the FBI or other law enforcement agencies arrested anyone for attempting to commit politically motivated violence or conspiracies against the Queen during this or any other visit.
As for the potential threat to deposit an object on the Queen’s yacht in 1983 made by the boss of the Dovre Club – an Irish pub in the Mission district of San Francisco – the FBI memo describing the threat noted that the Secret Service planned to “close the walkways on the Golden Gate Bridge as the yacht approaches.
An FBI letter on Tuesday notifying NBC News of the release of the files on the Queen noted that “additional potentially sensitive files about you may exist” beyond those released by the agency this week.