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‘Boston and New York are requested to remain alert for any threats against Queen Elizabeth II on the part of IRA members’
Newly released files have revealed how the FBI feared the late Queen Elizabeth II would be targeted by the IRA during her many visits to the US.
The documents show that the agency considered there was an “ever-present threat” to her Majesty’s safety, including from the Irish Republican Army and its sympathisers.
According to some 102 pages of FBI records released on Monday, the agency, in partnership with the Secret Service and local authorities, were on high alert during the British royal’s trips to American soil.
The documents including memos, newspaper clippings, teletype communications, and other records of Her Majesty’s visits dating back to 1976 were first requested by NBC News via the Freedom of Information Act.
They have been posted on the FBI’s electronic resource library, called ‘The Vault’.
During her trip in New York for America’s Bicentennial celebrations in Battery Park in 1976, a New York City Police Department intelligence detective had advised the FBI of no arrests, but noted that a summons was issued to a pilot of a small airplane for flying over the park with a sign reading, “England, Get out of Ireland.”
Ahead of a 1983 visit the Queen made to see then-President Ronald Reagan in San Francisco, police warned the FBI that, due to the wide variety of protesters against both Reagan and the queen during her visit, “it will be very hard to anticipate and prevent incidents which may embarrass either the queen or the president”.
The San Francisco police department also corresponded with the FBI to warn them of a male patron of an Irish pub “frequented by [IRA] sympathizers”.
This particular man, whose daughter was apparently killed by rubber bullet in Northern Ireland, had called an unnamed officer before the visit and threatened to kill Queen Elizabeth II.
“This man, who “makes no secret of his sympathies for the IRA”, additionally claimed that he was going to attempt to harm Queen Elizabeth, the documents reveal.
“And would do this either by dropping some object off the Golden Gate Bridge onto the royal yacht Britannia when it sails underneath, or would attempt to kill Queen Elizabeth when she visited Yosemite National Park.”
As a result, the document notes that the Secret Service intended to “close the walkways on the Golden Gate Bridge as the yacht nears.”
Six years later, in 1989, as the FBI prepared for a further visits from the Queen to a series of states across the country, there were reports of “several anonymous threatening telephone calls” to Kentucky police.
While there were “no known [IRA] activists or sympathizers … in Louisville’s territory”, the possibility of threats against the British monarchy was “ever-present from the Irish Republican Army,” an internal FBI teletype states.
It adds: “Boston and New York are requested to remain alert for any threats against Queen Elizabeth II on the part of IRA members and immediately furnish same to Louisville.”
Another memo marked ‘Domestic Terrorism Unit/Counter-Terrorism Section’ detailed intelligence between the FBI and Secret Service relating to a Baltimore Orioles baseball game that Her Majesty planned to attend with President George W Bush in 1991.
It warned of planned protests at the stadium from “Irish groups” and raised concerns over the fact that one group “had reserved a large block of grand stand tickets.”
Referring to an article in a “Philadelphia Irish newspaper,” the memo said “anti-British feelings are running high as a result of well publicized injustices” against the “Birmingham Six”—six Irishmen imprisoned with false convictions for pub bombings—“by the corrupt English judicial system”.
There were also references to “the recent rash of brutal murders of unarmed Irish nationalists in the six counties by Loyalist death squads”.
Although it clarified that the article did not contain any explicit threats against Queen Elizabeth II, the memo claimed “the statements could be viewed as inflammatory”.
Despite the extra precautions taken by law enforcement agencies over the years none of the dozens of files mentioned any arrests for Queen Elizabeth II-related violence or schemes committed in the name of the IRA.
However, in a letter to NBC News the FBI acknowledged that “additional records … may exist” beyond what the agency has publicly disclosed.