IRA plot to kill the Queen during US visit revealed by FBI file

An IRA member reportedly plotted to kill Queen Elizabeth II by dropping an object onto the royal yacht

Bevan Hurley
Friday 26 May 2023 12:30 BST
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The FBI have revealed the existence of a possible IRA plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to the United States in 1983.

Newly-released FBI records show that agents warned of an “ever-present” threat to the late monarch during 11 visits to the US across her seven-decade reign.

The files, which appear in the FBI’s Vault containing information of high public interest, show they received intelligence that Queen Elizabeth might be targeted by an Irish Republican Army sympathiser, who wanted to avenge the death of his daughter in Northern Ireland, on her 1983 trip.

According to the files, a San Franciso police officer informed federal agents he had received a call from a man he knew socially from drinking at Irish bars in the city on 4 February 1983, about a month before the Queen and Prince Philip were due to be hosted by Ronald Reagan at the White House.

The unnamed man claimed he was going to attempt to harm Queen Elizabeth by dropping an object off the Golden Gate Bridge onto the royal yacht Britannia as it sailed underneath, or by attempting to kill her when she visited Yosemite National Park, the confidential FBI memo states.

The 102 pages of FBI records about Queen Elizabeth were released under the Freedom of Information Act after media requests were made by following her death last September.

The records don’t reveal whether the assassination plot developed beyond the angry words of a single pubgoer.

But they do show how seriously federal agents took potential threats against the royals during official visits prior to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement that largely brought an end to the sectarian violence known as the Troubles in 1998.

During a trip to New York for the US’s bicentennial celebrations in 1976, an NYPD intelligence officer reported issuing a summons to a pilot who had flown over a city park with a sign readng “England, Get out of Ireland.”

And ahead of a 1989 visit to Boston, New York, and the southern United States, an FBI memo warned that “the possibility of threats against the British Monarchy is ever-present from the Irish Republican Army (IRA).”

“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,” the memo added.

Two years later, the bureau revealed concerns it had that Irish terrorist groups were planning to protest Elizabeth’s attendance at a  Baltimore Orioles baseball game and White House event during a 1991 state visit.

Queen Elizabeth II arrives at the Palace of Westminster for a state dinner in 2009
Queen Elizabeth II arrives at the Palace of Westminster for a state dinner in 2009 (Getty Images)

Citing a story in a Philadelphia-based newspaper called Irish Edition, the FBI said: “The article stated anti-British feelings are running high as a result of well publicised injustices inflicted on the Birmingham Six by the corrupt English judicial system and the recent rash of brutal murders of unarmed Irish nationalists in the six counties by loyalist death squads.”

The Birmingham Six were six Irish men who were wrongly convicted and imprisoned for carrying out two deadly pub bombings in the English city in the mid-1970s.

The group were released from prison months before the Queen’s US visit in 1991 after an appeal found evidence police had fabricated evidence and tortured the men during interrogation.

The FBI noted that while the article did not contain threats against the Queen or then president, George HW Bush, the statements could be viewed as being inflammatory.

“The article stated that an Irish group had reserved a large block of grand stand tickets.”

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