Newly declassified files from 1987 show local councillors were considering the terrifying prospect of a massive nuclear first strike by the USSR and the equally terrifying prospect of afterwards being cooped up with their colleagues in a bunker in post-apocalyptic Ballymena.
According to newly-released Northern Ireland Office (NIO) ‘Home Defence Planning’ correspondence from the mid 1980s local councillors who survived would have been sent to ‘protected building No. 1’ in Ballymena.
The file details arrangements for sustaining a post nuclear attack Regional Government Headquarters in Ballymena (which would preside above a tier of local government bases) and which would be initiated following the expected escalation from ‘conventional’ to ‘nuclear’ warfare with the USSR.
As noted in one restricted NIO memo, even the terrifying prospect of a massive nuclear first strike by the USSR on all UK cities, industry and infrastructure did not solve the problem local councillors (who were in the midst of political impasse in Northern Ireland), having to coexist in emergency underground bunkers:
“The political climate in District Councils means that the progress towards the establishment of the lowest tier of post-strike government is also in effect in cold storage and our interim arrangements must also take account of this situation,” it reads.
Also, in his reflection on a recent exercise, an official under the paragraph ‘Behaviour under Stress’ noted the problems potentially faced locally for those living in the restricted confines of a bunker in terms of those deemed ‘suitable:’ “a very important factor as far as designees in Northern Ireland are concerned.”
He also noted: “The vegetarian gentleman who attended the course would find some difficulty with bunker food.”
Work on the bunker at Woodside Road began in 1987 and it was completed in 1989.