A spokesman at Garda headquarters in Dublin confirmed last night that it had seized a quantity of intelligence material in a raid at a house in north Dublin last week. But the spokesman declined to specify exactly when the material dated from. Initial reports circulating in Dublin suggested that while some documents on the identity, addresses, and car registration numbers of senior military figures was old, the information on the Queen's planned engagements was up-to-date.
But some Garda sources stressed the information on the Queen's movements may not be confidential as details of many of her engagements would not necessarily be restricted information. The material is also believed to include detailed maps of Army and RAF bases in the London, Birmingham and Manchester areas. The Dublin raid follows a series of recent breakthroughs by Gardai in Westmeath, in the Irish midlands, in which weapons, ammunition and a firing range were discovered.
A woman held after last week's Dublin raid was questioned for 48 hours but then released. The Irish Director of Public Prosecutions is now considering whether charges should be brought.
It is understood the intelligence material, which was discovered in a large box in the Dublin house, has now been made available to Scotland Yard officers who flew to Dublin to examine it. The Queen has visited Northern Ireland seven times since her accession, but only three times since the Troubles began 25 years ago.
The Queen last visited the province last June to meet members of the security forces and the public. The fact of her visit was kept secret, even from the press, until the last moment. She was flown by helicopter from Aldergrove airport near Belfast to Hillsborough castle in Co Down. After lunch with Sir Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, she met members of the security forces and their families and mingled with more than 1,200 discreetly vetted guests at a garden party in the castle grounds.
She has always insisted she will not allow security fears to stop her meeting the public, often in circumstances which make it almost impossible to prevent an attack.
Last month, she ordered the captain of her RAF VC10 to land at Heathrow in the knowledge that the airport was on maximum security alert after an IRA mortar attack on the airport the day before. Warnings had already been received that the IRA was about to launch another mortar.
Neither the Queen nor the Prince of Wales have visited the Irish Republic, largely for security reasons.
In 1988, Lord Mason a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, revealed that during a royal visit to Northern Ireland in 1977 a bomb had exploded at the University of Ulster four hours after the Queen had left the campus.