why do the irish hate margaret thatcher
A ÁPARTICULARLY ROBUSTÁ meeting between Garret Fitzgerald and Margaret Thatcher led to the Prime Minster declaring that Áthe Irish donÁt like to moveÁ but Áthey all seem terribly happy to move to BritainÁ. Thatcher made the comments in a meeting with the Taoiseach at the PMÁs country retreat in Chequers in November 1984. The meeting occurred a month after the IRAÁs Brighton bombing with a pre-meeting memo prepared for FitzGerald describing ThatcherÁs Ástate of mindÁ as ÁunsettledÁ. ÁMrs ThatcherÁs state of mind at her preparatory meeting was rather negative. Apparently this is not at all unusual,Á the memo adds. The confidential documents from the Department of the Taoiseach have been released under the 30 year rule. They show FitzGerald telling Thatcher that they are both going about the problems in Northern Ireland in a manner that is Átoo rationalÁ, adding that a more emotional understanding is required. The two leaders were discussing a range of possible constitutional options in Northern Ireland when FitzGerald made reference to the model in Belgium in which the diverse regions co-exist. Thatcher said sheÁd recently made a trip to a factory in Belfast where Catholic and Protestant employees work together in harmony but when she came both sides erected Tricolours and Union Jacks. Thatcher ruled out what she called a ÁrepartitionÁ to change the dynamics in the north. The Taoiseach and Prime Minister sign the Anglo-Irish agreement a year after the Chequers meeting. The two-hour meeting focused exclusively on Northern Ireland issues and included a prediction from Thatcher that any kind of Britain-Ireland Ájoint-authorityÁ over the province would lead to Ácivil warÁ. FitzGerald told Thatcher that, for Ireland to drop its constitutional claim to Northern Ireland, a system must be put in place for the Irish Foreign Minister and their UK counterpart to arrive at decisions about Northern Ireland together.
The proposal for merely ÁconsultationÁ was not acceptable, he said. Notes on the meeting record, however, Thatcher saying that Ájoint authority or anything like it was totally outÁ:
Minoritiesá Repeatedly during the course of the meeting, Thatcher compared nationalists in Northern Ireland to other minorities in Europe and was incredulous as to why they should be ensured representation in a devolved Government. Thatcher said that she Ádid not understand why a minority sought particular prerogativesÁ and compared nationalists to other European minorities like Croats and Sudeten Germans who do not have such assurances. But FitzGerald argued that nationalists feel part of the Island of Ireland and had been Ácut off by an arbitrary actÁ. Thatcher mentioned the Brighton bombing only by saying that, Áwhatever emerged from the present talks, it should not be more, or see to be more, as a result of the Brighton bombing. Á - First published 7 am Read: was a hugely divisive figure in British politics. And for the people of Ireland, and especially the north, the Thatcher years were among some of the worst of the conflict. Her policy decisions entrenched sectarian divisions, handed draconian military powers over to the securocrats, and subverted basic human rights. Thatcher refused to recognise the right of citizens to vote for representatives of their choice. She famously changed the law after Bobby Sands was elected in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. And when I and several other Sinn FÃin leaders were elected to the in 1982 we were barred from entry to Britain. Margaret Thatcher's government defended structured political and religious discrimination and political vetting in the north, legislated for political censorship and institutionalised, to a greater extent than ever before, collusion between British state forces and unionist death squads.
It was under her leadership that in 1982 that the (FRU) was established within the British Army Intelligence Corps. This unit recruited agents who were then used to kill citizens. Among them was loyalist Brian Nelson, a former British soldier and member of the Ulster Defence Association. Nelson travelled to South Africa where he helped negotiate a deal that saw the UDA, UVF and Ulster Resistance acquire AK-47 automatic rifles, pistols, grenades, and RPG rocket launchers in late 1987 or early 1988. The Thatcher government was across all the details of this shipment. Its impact on the streets of the north is evident in the statistics of death. In the three years prior to receiving these weapons the loyalist death squads killed 34 people. In the three years after the shipment they killed 224 and wounded scores more. But it was the killing of human rights lawyer in February 1989 that reveals the depth of the Thatcher government's state collusion policy. At every level of his killing, British agents and agencies had a hand: the leader of the UDA group that carried out the killing was a Special Branch agent, as was the man who confessed to being the gunman, and the man who supplied the gun. And, of course, Nelson provided the intelligence. Thatcher will be especially remembered for her shameful role during the epic hunger strikes of 1980 and 81. The Thatcher government believed that the criminalisation of the republican prisoners would break the republican struggle. It was not interested in a resolution. The events of that awful summer of '81 polarised Irish society, north and south.
It was a watershed moment in Irish politics. Government policy during the 1980s was little more than a war policy, aimed at defeating or isolating republicanism. Its strategies included the shallow and ineffectual 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement which was about creating a political alliance involving the Dublin establishment, the SDLP and the British to defeat Irish republicanism. Shoot-to-kill actions by British forces also significantly increased. This was most evident in the shooting dead of three unarmed IRA activists in Gibraltar in March 1988. It is my view that Thatcher authorised the killings at Gibraltar. Later, when the BBC and ITV scheduled two programmes about Gibraltar, Thatcher tried to stop them. She was "outraged" when the programmes went ahead. Later that year she introduced the, which prevented viewers and listeners hearing my voice. In 1990 the then British secretary of state Peter Brooke to reopen back-channel negotiations with republicans. We were wary of this. However, for almost a decade Sinn FÃin had been patently trying to build a peace process and unfolding events on the world stage â including the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, and the release of Mandela â were evidence that governments, and apparently intractable situations, could change. So we agreed to reactivate the back channel. For Thatcher it all ended months later in November 1990 when she was forced to resign. She was evicted from Downing Street with all the ruthlessness, treachery and warped humanity of what passes for high politics. Thatcher's 11 years of dictating British policy in Ireland was a legacy of bitterness and entrenched division. Her Irish policy failed miserably. A longer version of this article appears on
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