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The arms crisis of 1970 came about when two Irish cabinet ministers, Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney, alongside an army officer and other figures, were accused by Taoiseach Jack Lynch of smuggling arms to the IRA in Northern Ireland. The criminal prosecution that followed, the Arms Trial, was a cause celebre at the time; while it resulted in the acquittal of all the accused The arms crisis of 1970 came about when two Irish cabinet ministers, Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney, alongside an army officer and other figures, were accused by Taoiseach Jack Lynch of smuggling arms to the IRA in Northern Ireland. The criminal prosecution that followed, the Arms Trial, was a cause celebre at the time; while it resulted in the acquittal of all the accused, the political crisis it generated was one of the major events of late twentieth century Irish history. In the fifty years since, myth and controversy has surrounded the trial and its aftermath. Was the country really on the brink of a bloody civil war involving North and South? Did the two Ministers sacked by Lynch help generate the bloody campaign of the Provisional IRA – or were they set up by the Taoiseach as fall guys for an arms plot that was unofficially authorized but always deniable by Lynch? Was there, as is often claimed, a kind of coup in preparation that Lynch's prompt action foiled? A great deal of astonishing new evidence has been uncovered by Michael Heney in his research for this book, raising serious questions about Lynch and his relationship with future Taoiseach Charles Haughey. The book also contains the first comprehensive investigation into how the arms trial prosecution was mounted, and how the jury came to their verdict of acquittal. Heney's meticulous scholarship challenges much of the conventional wisdom about these sensational events. The Arms Crisis of 1970 is a major contribution to our understanding of a pivotal moment in postwar Irish history.


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The arms crisis of 1970 came about when two Irish cabinet ministers, Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney, alongside an army officer and other figures, were accused by Taoiseach Jack Lynch of smuggling arms to the IRA in Northern Ireland. The criminal prosecution that followed, the Arms Trial, was a cause celebre at the time; while it resulted in the acquittal of all the accused The arms crisis of 1970 came about when two Irish cabinet ministers, Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney, alongside an army officer and other figures, were accused by Taoiseach Jack Lynch of smuggling arms to the IRA in Northern Ireland. The criminal prosecution that followed, the Arms Trial, was a cause celebre at the time; while it resulted in the acquittal of all the accused, the political crisis it generated was one of the major events of late twentieth century Irish history. In the fifty years since, myth and controversy has surrounded the trial and its aftermath. Was the country really on the brink of a bloody civil war involving North and South? Did the two Ministers sacked by Lynch help generate the bloody campaign of the Provisional IRA – or were they set up by the Taoiseach as fall guys for an arms plot that was unofficially authorized but always deniable by Lynch? Was there, as is often claimed, a kind of coup in preparation that Lynch's prompt action foiled? A great deal of astonishing new evidence has been uncovered by Michael Heney in his research for this book, raising serious questions about Lynch and his relationship with future Taoiseach Charles Haughey. The book also contains the first comprehensive investigation into how the arms trial prosecution was mounted, and how the jury came to their verdict of acquittal. Heney's meticulous scholarship challenges much of the conventional wisdom about these sensational events. The Arms Crisis of 1970 is a major contribution to our understanding of a pivotal moment in postwar Irish history.

45 review for The Arms Crisis of 1970: The Plot that Never Was

  1. 5 out of 5

    Cormac Farrell

    This book arrives at 50th anniversary of the event, the author Michael Heney argues that our traditional understanding of this event has been poor. As authors have had a tendency to view the event though the modern day prism of Charles Haughey latter ambitions and militant violence which the Troubles facilitated. Heney disputes the traditional approach, that the event arose out due to the militant wing of Fianna Fáil led by two ministers Neil Blaney and Charles Haughey alone. To support this app This book arrives at 50th anniversary of the event, the author Michael Heney argues that our traditional understanding of this event has been poor. As authors have had a tendency to view the event though the modern day prism of Charles Haughey latter ambitions and militant violence which the Troubles facilitated. Heney disputes the traditional approach, that the event arose out due to the militant wing of Fianna Fáil led by two ministers Neil Blaney and Charles Haughey alone. To support this approach the author uses primary research with some of the actors involved. Alongside new evidence released from the British and Irish government state archives and the 2001 Attorney General report about the event. Heney argues that Lynch and his defense minister Jim Gibbons actually were not only aware but help facilitated the plan to import arms. This is seen through the perjury of Gibbons, redacted evidence from the arms trials and Lynch's timid response when he first became aware of the plot, according to Secretary General from the Department of Justice Peter Berry. While it's an interesting argument, when reading it Heney feels is overplaying certain aspects of the evidence presented. The heavily reliance on the Peter berry 'Diaries'. While Lynch definitely was aware since October 1969 about the plot to import arms, The author takes Berry actions of having to consult not only President de Valera but also Fianna Fail veteran Frank Aiken to force Lynch's hand. Lynch ultimately acted when Liam Cosgrave leader of Fine Gael and opposition consulted with Lynch about Garda evidence of such a plot. This demonstrates Lynch's personality at times which is timid nature, unsure of himself at times in how to act and doesn't support the author's argument. Ultimately my view is this, Jack Lynch allowed the setting up of the Cabinet sub-committee which under Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney took upon themselves alongside elements of military intelligence to seek means to import weaponry. There actions were not only taking a political opportunity to assert their dominance on the 'caretaker Taoiseach' and leader of Fianna Fáil Jack Lynch, but also an opportunity to unify the country militarily. Overall one has to take that 'Arms crisis of 1970' as a battle for the mindset within Fianna Fáil towards its approach to the North. It's a product of the failure within Fianna Fáil party to effectively articulate a clear policy to unify the country. This began with its founder Eamon de Valera and his approach that Britain would capitulated the North, taken under a new approach slightly under Sean Lemass of economic integration but ultimately the Civil Rights marches in the North escalated forcing Fianna Fáil to be split between hawkish and dove approaches. While this book is a welcome additional to the historical debate and the Lynch's government impact on state relations toward Northern Ireland, I disagree with the author's conclusion that Jack Lynch had the intention to import arms for the purpose of arming civilians in the North. From reading personal biographies on Lynch, which the author cites in particular Frank Dunlop book 'Yes Taoiseach' who states that Lynch was cute at times while also paradoxically "quite innocent and naive in some ways". Therefore the argument that Lynch actively coordinated a plot from most of his cabinet and through only a select choice of ministers can be largely seen as farcical.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Did the author consider that the Government might want the case against Charles Haughey to fail, hence the rush to press charges before all statements were made? A guilty Charles Haughey could have caused major problems as he had a lot of party support. The prosecution barrister was kept out of some of the loop on issues with statements. Bringing the prosecution would have satisfied (at least partly) those baying for blood and, as the author admits, made Jack Lynch appear to be a man of decision. Did the author consider that the Government might want the case against Charles Haughey to fail, hence the rush to press charges before all statements were made? A guilty Charles Haughey could have caused major problems as he had a lot of party support. The prosecution barrister was kept out of some of the loop on issues with statements. Bringing the prosecution would have satisfied (at least partly) those baying for blood and, as the author admits, made Jack Lynch appear to be a man of decision. Isn't that what all leaders want.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    I picked this book to increase my understanding of a moment in Irish history but ended with an even murkier perspective. It is written with an open agenda to change the popularly understood past which it fails to do. While understanding that the full set of facts are unknown, the book is written in a style that confuses rather than clarifies by filling in gaps with speculation and conjecture.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Denise

  5. 5 out of 5

    John Coughlan

  6. 5 out of 5

    Peter

  7. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dave

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jack Bredin

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ronan McManus

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ciarán McNamara

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dearbhla

  13. 4 out of 5

    Donal

  14. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  15. 4 out of 5

    katherinescannell

  16. 4 out of 5

    Denis Healy

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gerry McGuinness

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    Avril Barry

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    Anthony Gore-Grimes

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joe Lavan

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ej

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eamon Kennedy

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gerald

  24. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

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    Rory

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    John Scanlon

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    Kieran

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    Cathal Martin

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    MGF

  30. 5 out of 5

    Fionnuala

  31. 5 out of 5

    Ed

  32. 4 out of 5

    Diarmuid O'Donovan

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    ill

  34. 5 out of 5

    Kate O’Sullivan

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    Brian Mcmahon

  36. 5 out of 5

    Grytolan

  37. 4 out of 5

    Kellie

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    Jill Kirwan

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    James Lyons

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    Andrew Logue

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    paul white

  42. 5 out of 5

    Unityofm

  43. 4 out of 5

    джаймс X

  44. 4 out of 5

    Adam O'Reilly

  45. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Kathleen

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