Donald Maitland

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Donald Maitland (Born 16 August 1922 - ) was a career British diplomat , propagandist and spindoctor.


Donald Maitland was the son of Thomas Douglas Maitland and Wilhelmina Sarah Dundas. He was educated at George Watson's College and Edinburgh University (MA). In 1950 he married Jean Marie Young, the daughter of Gordon Young. During World War II he served in India, the Middle East and Burma with the Royal Scots and Rajputana Rifles.

Diplomatic Service

Donald Maitland held many diplomatic positions throughout his career. They were, listed in chronological order:

  • 1947 - joined Foreign Service.
  • 1950 - Consul, Amara.
  • 1950-53 - British Embassy, Bagdad, Iraq.
  • 1954-56 - Private Secretary to Minister of State, Foreign Office.
  • 1956-60 - Director, Middle East Centre for Arab Studies, Lebanon.
  • 1960-63 - Foreign Office.
  • 1963-65 - Counsellor, British Embassy, Cairo, Egypt.
  • 1965-67 - Head of News Department, Foreign Office.
  • 1967-69 - Principal Private Secretary to Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary.
  • 1969-70 - Ambassador to Libya.
  • 1970-73 - Chief Press Secretary, 10 Downing Street.
  • 1973-74 - UK Permanent Representative to United Nations.
  • 1974-75 - Deputy Under-Secretary of State, FCO.
  • 1975 - UK Member, Commonwealth Group on Trade, Aid and Development.
  • 1975-79 - Ambassador and UK Permanent Representative to EEC.
  • 1979-80 - Deputy to Permanent Under-Secretary of State, FCO.
  • 1980-82 - Permanent Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy.

He was awarded the GCMG in 1977 (CMG 1967); was knighted in 1973; was awarded the OBE in 1960.[1]

Bloody Sunday

The first IRD officer to arrive in Northern Ireland was Hugh Mooney in June 1971. He was followed a month later by Clifford Hill, who compiled a report on information requirements that was circulated in September 1971. Hill called for the appointment of a press liason officer, who would “ensure close liaison between the information agencies in Northern Ireland, London and overseas, to plan a systematic campaign of propaganda, and to cultivate visiting journalists. He will be concerned with all information activities.”
Hill’s report noted that “a senior Army officer is joining the HQ staff (temporarily) and will be made available for contact work ‘downtown’ in close contact with the Press Liason Office” This was Col Maurice Tugwell who was seconded to the IRD by the Chief of the General Staff, Lord Carver. The report was accepted by the Prime Minister and Hill himself was appointed to the press liason post. On 15 October, Downing Street Press Secretary Sir Donald Maitland invited the Home Office, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence to join a liason committee to oversee Hill’s work.
In a 2002 statement to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, Sir Donald claimed he had little involvement with the IRD. However, in a letter to the Prime Minister on 4 November 1971, he stated: “The liaison group, consisting of representatives of No. 10, the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, met under my chairmanship with Clifford Hill this morning. We agreed on Hill’s tasks and objectives.”
“Parallel with this committee, Sir Dick White, Norman Reddaway and I have decided on the machinery for placing anti I.R.A. propaganda in the British press and media. This machinery is already in operation. Its first major task will be to produce articles which will counteract the effect of the Compton Report.”
It is interesting that the notion of countering IRA propaganda should have extended to countering a report on internment by a British civil servant which found that the sensory deprivation techniques used on internees did not amount to torture.[2]


Contact, References and Resources




  1. Janus, British Diplomatic Oral History
  2. The Godson Approach to Political Warfare: Part 3 The IRD in Northern Ireland Spinwatch, By Tom Griffin 9 October 2007