PRIME Minister Margaret Thatcher is facing serious security challenges from both sides of the religious divide in Northern Ireland. A massive bomb exploded Sept. 22 at a military barracks in Deal, Kent, killing 10 young Royal Marine bandsmen and exposing grave inadequacies in arrangements for preventing terrorism against ``soft'' targets in England. The bomb was the work of the outlawed Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The Deal barracks had been guarded not by regular police or military personnel, but by a private security firm whose members, it is being alleged, receive minimal antiterrorist training. Mrs. Thatcher has ordered an immediate inquiry into arrangements at military installations around the country.
At the same time the British authorities in Northern Ireland have been embarrassed by a spate of security leaks from police stations in the province. Scores of files, including names and photo montages of suspected IRA terrorists, were stolen and supplied to members of the Ulster Volunteer Regiment (UVR), a mainly Protestant body which helps other British military units preserve security in the province.
The UVR is known to contain some extremists with connections to Protestant paramilitary terrorist groups.
The leaks have sparked a crisis in relations between London and Dublin. The Thatcher government has been forced to order an urgent inquiry into the leaks.
In Dublin, news of the security leaks has caused dismay. The Irish prime minister, Charles Haughey, is concerned that the Anglo-Irish Agreement signed four years ago as a framework for addressing the Ulster problem is being put in jeopardy.