Recently declassified documents on communications between senior Irish officials showed that Ireland’s intelligence service believed that the US or UK may have secretly stored nuclear weapons at a mountain base in Northern Ireland.
In November 1983, in a report marked "confidential" to then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Barry, Irish Director of Intelligence Col. L Buckley revealed that a facility at Benbradagh Mountain, known to be used by US forces to communicate with naval forces in the North Atlantic, could have also stored nuclear weapons.
“Benbradagh NE of Dungiven has underground facilities, which were originally constructed by US forces for the storage of conventional high explosives but were subsequently redesigned and are understood to be suitable for the storage of nuclear weapons if so required", he said.
Furthermore, Buckley noted, Belfast’s Sydenham Harbour was capable of accommodating UK Royal Navy and other NATO vessels that were “equipped with nuclear missiles or weapons", while Belfast International Airport and RAF Ballykelly in the country’s north could “accommodate all UK and NATO aircraft including the Vulcan bomber".
Buckley complained that the UK and NATO did not inform Ireland about the deployment of such nuclear weapons, and explained that there was no “official information from the UN or NATO sources concerning such matters".
“Suffice to say any such information would be given the highest security classification and only be available to UK or other military personnel on the strictest ‘need-to-know’ basis at the highest level", he noted.
The senior intelligence official also indicated that his agency did not have sufficient monitoring or surveillance systems or sources which could “confirm the movements or emplacement of UK/NATO surface ships, submarines, aircraft or nuclear devices or their supporting systems in and around the territory of Northern Ireland".
Irish Intelligence Operations
A separate 1985 document marked "Secret" in Buckley’s files showed that Irish intelligence had snooped around a British Army base in Forkhill, a small village in Northern Ireland near the border with the Irish Republic, amid fears that it was “being turned into some kind of a nuclear facility".
Dublin eventually asked London to formally explain whether there were any nuclear weapons stationed in Northern Ireland, with the British Foreign Office responding that there was “absolutely no question of siting cruise missiles in Northern Ireland". London added, however, that it was “not the policy of Her Majesty’s Government to confirm or deny the whereabouts of sea or air-based nuclear missiles".
Buckley’s correspondence was published in a batch of state papers for the year 1989, which were released recently after 30 years in accordance with local information laws.
Chemical Weapons Dumping
A separate package of documents published under the 30 year rule revealed communications between Irish politician Pat Gallagher and the Department of Foreign Affairs showing concerns from Irish officials in mid-1990 that unnamed “big belligerents” were allegedly “indiscriminately” dumping chemical weapons off the coast of northwestern Ireland, “as they have done for the past forty-odd years.” The Department of Foreign Affairs responded to Gallagher, saying it was “not aware of any proposals to dump chemical weapons off Donegal, or of any allegations that such dumping had taken place in the past".