• April 30, 2019

The Celtic League has asked the Irish government to press the UK on the alleged use of CR gas during disturbances at the Maze Prison in 1974. Files on what is termed ‘OPERATION PAGODA; use of CR gas’ fall due for access reconsideration this year. Some other files are closed until 2025 and 2026.

The correspondence to the Department of Foreign Affairs is set out below:

“Minister Charlie Flanagan
Department of Justice and Equality
51 St Stephens Green
Dublin 2

Dear Minister Flanagan

Ref: ‘Operation Pagoda; use of CR gas’ – Maze prison allegations.

I write with reference to the alleged use of CR gas against prisoners during disturbances at the Maze Prison in October 1974. The use of this carcinogenic anti riot gas has been the subject of controversy as many of those interned at the time allege it was used and they suffered ill health as a result.

The United Kingdom has kept files closed on the incident and some are not due for reconsideration until 2026 however at least one file is due for access reconsideration this year.

See Kew Archive review links below:


Controversy surrounds the use of gas in a confined area and the concentration therefore to which inmates were exposed. The UK government do not deny that gas was used but they insist it was CS gas not CR. They also admit that gas was dropped into the sealed compounds (or cages) by helicopter.

The UK Defence Secretary Adam Ingram told the Celtic League in correspondence on the 1st of February 2005 (ref: D/Min(AF)AI 638104/L):

“I am unable to provide the October 1974 helicopter flight logs you request as such logs are routinely destroyed by RAF stations after five years of the date of a flight. I have, however, attached Annex C to the Commanders Diary of the incident, which clearly states that soldiers were assisted in restoring order during the disturbance by “a helicopter dispensing CS”.

When we pressed on the health implications of using either gas in such confined spaces the same correspondence advised that

“As regards medical research on the effects of CS, it remains the case that CS had been the subject of long and rigorous testing and assessment prior to its use at HMP The Maze in October 1974. Medical assistance for the effects of CS inhalation was, of course, provided to those prisoners requiring incident immediately following the incident”.

For information CR gas is banned for use in many countries due to concerns about its toxicity.

Will the Irish government press the United Kingdom to open all ‘Operation Pagoda’ files or in the event they will not open them publicly share the documentation with your Department?

Additionally as the UK Defence Secretary was so insistent that ‘CS had been the subject of ‘long and rigorous testing and assessment prior to its use at HMP’ will you ask if CR gas was also subject to such testing and assessment and what the result of same was?

Large stocks of CR gas were held by both the British army and RUC in the North of Ireland and despite the fact the UK authorities say it was never used they have no record of its disposal.I understand incidentally that the disposal of chemical material f this type is supposed under International convention to be undertaken in controlled circumstances. Could you press them on this last point?

Despite the fact many individuals have now died I think it is imperative that the UK finally come clean about ‘Operation Pagoda; use of CR gas’ and open the files mentioned and also some additional ones on the same subject due for access consideration in 2025.

Yours sincerely.

J B Moffatt

Assistant General Secretary
Celtic League”

cc. Department of the Taoiseach

Image: Maze prison immediately after the gassing

Bernard Moffatt

Celtic League

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