07/05/2013 Spotlight


Investigating stories affecting life in Northern Ireland. Stephen Dempster reveals fresh insights behind Mrs Thatcher's public persona regarding her stance on Northern Ireland.

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Margaret Thatcher was a deeply divisive figure. The very funeral


prompted controversy with a towel over its cost and the suspension of


Parliament to allow MPs and peers to attend. And in Republican areas of


Northern Ireland, the unbridled hatred was obvious. Maggie's dead.


Her death conjured up feelings from more than three decades ago.


Republicans blame an uncompromising Margaret Thatcher for the deaths of


ten prisoners on hunger strike. For them, she was and is a figure of


hate. I viewed Margaret Thatcher as a detestable character. Her whole


persona and Outlook towards the hunger strikers. Unionists turned on


her too. Burning her effigy in response to an agreement which gave


Dublin a role in Northern Ireland's affairs. The unionist people of


northern Ireland, felt totally betrayed by Margaret Thatcher.


hand this woman, Margaret Thatcher, over to the devil. Oh God, take


action upon this wicked creature. Over the years many have reconcile


their differences for the four Unionists, it was something that


goes to the core of the identity of who they are. Despite the


Anglo-Irish Agreement, Margaret Thatcher was a leader Unionists


could identify with, proudly British and not afraid to stand up for her


country. So why does she so bitterly divide opinion today? Delving into


her rarely seen private papers, we uncover fresh insights into the


so-called iron Lady. Now that she is dead, what is her legacy in Northern


Ireland? Nobody knew about the explosion. Margaret Thatcher on the


campaign trail in 1979. She was informed about a bomb attack. A rare


glimpse of Margaret Thatcher and guarded and shaken. This was the


moment when the turbulent and bloody relationship between Margaret


Thatcher and Northern Ireland began. The INLA bomb had killed her


political friend and adviser Airey Neave. A British war hero who


masterminded her rise to the top. Those of us who believe in the


things Airey Neave fought for will see however use argument that


continue to live on in this country. His murder would hang


darkly over the next 11 years of her time in office. Cambridge, it is to


this university that Margaret Thatcher bequeathed her personal


archive. I have been invited in to see for myself this extraordinary


collection. Now revealing the secrets of some of the most


controversial moment of our recent history. Andrew Daly is the man who


looks after the Thatcher papers. first thing is just the huge scale


of paperwork, a huge archive of well over 1 million individual documents.


By faith alone it would have a huge importance. The elements of her


annotation and the element of things that were private of her rated as


highly as any collection in the UK. Inside this collection are official


government notes and letters. More of which are released each year. Bit


by bit this political and historical treasure is revealing more about the


real Mrs Thatcher. Including fresh insights on her thinking of Northern


Ireland. And especially striking what the continuing influence of the


Airey Neave, long after his murder. Writing to Jim Callaghan just days


after the death of Airey Neave, she vowed that the murder would not


change her party 's stance on Northern Ireland vote up she also


revealed that Airey Neave completed the Eilish section of the


Conservative manifesto hours before his death and she was sticking to


it. Mrs Thatcher 's papers are littered with reference to Airey


Neave. It is clear what his views -- the effect his views had on her.


This is a personal letter to Margaret Thatcher in April 1979


expressing sympathy upon the death of Airey Neave. What is interesting


is that it says at a time before either had been made prime minister


that he hopes no British government will either have any truck with


these people as has happened in the past. He is urging Mrs Thatcher not


to talk to terrorists. We brought a copy of this letter and other papers


from the archive back to Belfast. The letter is considered highly


significant because it appears to mark the beginning of a hugely


important personal relationship between her and Fitzgerald. It would


have a later impact an Anglo-Irish relations. I think it is one of the


most insightful letters we have come across dealing with this whole


period of Thatcher and Ireland. Here he has put into Thatcher the prime


minister designate. She will have to help someone like him who will no


doubt become a display minister in the future to solve this problem.


While Mrs Thatcher 's private views were open to some, in Northern


Ireland itself, people waited to find out what her approach would be.


At that time there was a sense of excitement. People were still


looking at it with some sense of curiosity for that I do not think


anybody fully realise the extent to which she was expressing the very


right-wing views of her party in many instances. Her Majesty the


Queen has asked me to form the new administration. At that time we


thought it was time for a strong prime minister. She was determined


not to let the IRA win and that was reassuring for Unionists. An early


test of this result came in August 1979 when the IRA killed soldiers in


County Down. She was furious that the bombers were able to detonate


the bomb is from the south of the border with the Army could not


pursue them. Within 48 hours, Margaret Thatcher was in Belfast,


her first visit as prime minister. Please stand still. Mrs Thatcher's


and trenchant no surrender unionism -- UNIX powered by then was it a


step unionist. We concede the background influence of the


conservative right wing. Ian Gow kept her in touch with these rather


anti-Irish views and refusal of cooperation with the Republic of


Ireland. Time and time again they tried to put their view to Margaret


Thatcher by saying it is what Airey Neave would have done. He is


informing the debate. On the day of her funeral, a small celebration was


organised in Belfast by local Republicans. Here the former pro


minister is reviled. May she roast in hell for what she has done.


the gathering is Jared Hodgkins, he was a hunger striker. It is a


significant day it marks the final passing of our number one opponent


during the hunger strike. It is important to mark the passing of a


tyrant. In 1981, Bobby Sands made five demands including the right to


wear non-prison uniform. And essentially, to be treated as a


political prisoner. Margaret Thatcher refused to negotiate and


Bobby Sands and nine others died. Republicans aim -- blame her for the


deaths. We will not compromise on this. There will be no political


status. But in recent years this image of the unwavering Thatcher has


been called into question by the emergence of startling information,


proof of a secret back channel between the IRA and the highest


levels of government. A means by which the two sides could pass


messages, effectively talking to each other. Here is the proof.


Documents detailing this secret channel and one government paper


apparently willing to consent to three of the hunger striker --


hunger strikers demands. But what is most astonishing about it is that it


was amended in Margaret Thatcher 's own hand. She had provisos to the


British offer. It is evident that she was sitting at the British end


of the back channel. In effect secretly in getting with Republicans


represented by Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness. This man says the


handwritten amendments have real significance. She had built up an


international reputation by sticking to her arguments, none more so than


not talking to terrorists. Margaret Thatcher has significantly edited


some of these documents and Gerry Adams is at the other end up these


lines. They refer to private exchanges with the Prime Minister.


Some claim that confidential papers show that Mrs Thatcher was more


flexible than she portrayed herself. Others believe that there


was in intransigence on both sides. I don't think you can say it was


either side. I think Mrs Thatcher could have refrained from making it


a head-on issue and leaving herself now room to move and I think the


Republicans take advantage of that. But I don't think you can blame one


side over the other. The political aftermath of the hunger strikes was


the rise and rise of Sinn Fein as an electoral force. The man who had to


deal with this on behalf of Margaret Thatcher was Jim Prior. Sent to


Northern Ireland shortly before the end of the hunger strikes. It had


been seven years since there had been any significant attempt at a


political resolution. The failed to show work back -- the field


power-sharing agreement. That brought them into conflict with


Thatcher's hardliners. Enoch Powell said to me, whatever you do do not


use the word reconciliation. I said to him, surely reconciliation is


what one has to try to aim to achieve in Northern Ireland


otherwise there will never be peace. I knew perfectly well what he meant.


He meant that reconciliation, in the eyes of the Unionists, meant a


greater agree opportunity between the north and the South. West Ham


and Ian Gow -- with him and Ian Gow constantly speaking in Margaret


notes to the Prime Minister opposing prior's devolution plans. Anyone, he


invoked the ghost of Airey Neave in desperation, he wrote, I cannot


forget Airey Neave. She did listen to Ian Gow. This was one of the


problems. I didn't think he would bring Airey Neave into it as much as


he did. I do not think that was very eyes but in other respects one has


to respect that he was a very powerful advocate. But this man


believes it reflects a major change in policy. I think we can see in


something like the cri de coeur of Ian Gow, that is recognising that


Northern Ireland is different. She doesn't have any great initiative


that Prior's initiative will succeed. Opposed by many Unionists,


directed by nationalists, Prior's plan for devolution fizzled out. But


Margaret Thatcher's next major step took almost everyone by surprise. In


November 1985, Britain and Ireland signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement.


The Irish state agreed new cross-border security arrangements


to defend against the IRA. And the British gave the Irish a role in


some of Northern Ireland 's internal affairs. Ladies and gentlemen, Dr


Fitzgerald and I have today signed a solemn agreement. It was the end of


three years of intense negotiation and shocked unionism. Some of my


children were sitting on the carpet looking at gas and horrified at the


television screen and I knew something was wrong. They told me,


we have got to get out of Northern Ireland. I ask them what they meant


and they said that Mrs Thatcher had been to Hillsborough and she had


sold us down the river to Garret FitzGerald in Dublin. Both sides


felt what they had agreed, albeit nervously, was historic. Margaret


Thatcher made an opening speech and then Garret made an opening speech


and he started off in daylight. That sent a slight chill round the room


because we didn't know what was actually being said. But the moment


of tension in the room was to prove the least of the government's


worries. We say never, never, never, never! Such was the sense of


rage that unionism rejected Margaret Thatcher. Tom King had to run the


gauntlet. That was my concern when I arrived. That it had been negotiated


in secret. The Unionist politicians weren't involved in the British


side. Seemingly out of the blue, Margaret Thatcher had switched from


the position of no Irish involvement in Northern Ireland is to


Anglo-Irish Agreement. The lady was for turning but why? He was really


crestfallen, Enoch Powell, he was feeling very down about what had


happened. He had put a lot of store by Margaret Thatcher's determination


not to give in. He had talked before about the fact that Airey Neave's


tragic death, and that there were other tragic influences being


brought to bear. Civil servants in Whitehall simply wanted to be read


of the Northern Ireland problem at any cost to the union. But those


close to talks say that Cabinet members slowly convinced that a


political solution with Southern Irish involvement was the way to go.


There were a lot of people around Mrs Thatcher who knew Garret well


and had known him for a long time. People like Geoffrey Howe. People


like Jim Prior. Six years previously, Garret FitzGerald had


written that personal letter to Margaret Thatcher, telling her that


it fell to their generation to resolve the Irish problem. The


agreement marked the final political breach with her political friend and


ally, Ian Gow. She disappeared up to her private room to speak to Ian Gow


and he announced he would retire from government. She hadn't


anticipated he would feel so strongly about it. That was the


first sign of strong reactions to come. Despite the intensity of the


Unionist's backlash... The remainder of Premiership was played out


against Langston from all sides. That is the anger that injuries.


best way to describe it was that Margaret Thatcher was a military


leader. She may have been the Prime Minister of Britain but she had a


military approach. She was not up for negotiation, resolution, she was


trying to crush republicanism rather than deal with the conflict.


Thatcher was the IRA's number one target. The IRA bombed the Grand


Hotel in Brighton where a number of conservatives were staying. You feel


about these atrocities but you do not expect them to happen to you.


But life must go on as usual. Life will go on. The conference will go


with her. It was fantastic. He would have thought that nothing had


happened the night before. In later years, she would have admitted to


being terrified every time she was in public and yet her rip


determination to face down the IRA didn't waver.


She agreed to attend a memorial service when asked by Tom King.


There was an almost audible gasp when we drove into the square and


people realised that Margaret Thatcher had come. It was a very


moving moment. Were you disappointed at the time that the IRA weren't


able to kill her? You've got to watch what questions you are asking.


She was killing her own citizens. Would you ask a British soldier or


Margaret Thatcher when she was alive if she was disappointed when an IRA


volunteer did? I don't think so. It was a war. She was a protagonist in


the war and she became a target. Margaret Thatcher fought back with


equal determination. Reacting to a series of IRA attacks, she


considered selective internment but decided to roll back from this and


instead, in 1988, banned Sinn Fein voices from broadcast. If everybody


tomorrow voted for Sinn Fein, it wouldn't make a blind bit of


difference to the Irish government. She thought she could cut off the


oxygen. She was wrong. The violence continued. In July 1990, Ian Gow,


thatcher's one-time close confident was killed by an IRA car bomb. Just


four months after Ian Gow's murder, she left Downing Street for the last


time. I don't think she had the type of understanding of the nuances of


the feelings of people, of the attitudes that existed in Northern


Ireland. I don't think she ever understood those. I don't think she


understood Ireland. I think at times she still thought that there are


public of Ireland was a colony and was tempted to treat it as such. --


the Republic of Ireland. Luckily, there were people within her party


and the government who don't understand. I think the harsher


critics will say that she didn't really have much influence in terms


of a legacy for peace in Northern Ireland. I'm not sure that is the


case. As much as I despise the Anglo-Irish Agreement and Dublin


being given a say in our internal affairs, it was a shock to the union


system. We were going to have to find a new way forward that gave us


the control over our own destiny. will be largely left to political


historians to make the final assessment of thatcher's legacy and


Ireland. What ever her qualms about the Anglo-Irish Agreement, as a


essential prerequisite to the good fight -- Good Friday Agreement, it


was of major importance. Others would build on her foundations and


the Unionists reviled horror -- her in 1985. The two governments would


become the honest brokers of an evolving peace process which would


give us the institutions people in Northern Ireland enjoyed today.


Republicans and many nationalists, Margaret Thatcher was a modern


witch. A person they regarded as a criminal, their most detested enemy.


And yet the irony of her legacy as the most read, white and blue of


The Iron Lady and Ireland. Margaret Thatcher perfected the image of an uncompromising leader but there's fresh light on her legacy in NI. New insights behind the public persona.

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