07/05/2013 Spotlight


07/05/2013

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

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

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

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

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

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Republicans blame an uncompromising Margaret Thatcher for the deaths of

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

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

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persona and Outlook towards the hunger strikers. Unionists turned on

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

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

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northern Ireland, felt totally betrayed by Margaret Thatcher.

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

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

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their differences for the four Unionists, it was something that

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

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Anglo-Irish Agreement, Margaret Thatcher was a leader Unionists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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moment when the turbulent and bloody relationship between Margaret

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

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

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

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things Airey Neave fought for will see however use argument that

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

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

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this university that Margaret Thatcher bequeathed her personal

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

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collection. Now revealing the secrets of some of the most

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ireland. And especially striking what the continuing influence of the

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

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

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

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revealed that Airey Neave completed the Eilish section of the

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Conservative manifesto hours before his death and she was sticking to

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

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

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This is a personal letter to Margaret Thatcher in April 1979

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

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

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

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

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

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

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significant because it appears to mark the beginning of a hugely

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important personal relationship between her and Fitzgerald. It would

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

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most insightful letters we have come across dealing with this whole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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step unionist. We concede the background influence of the

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

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

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

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

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

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organised in Belfast by local Republicans. Here the former pro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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political prisoner. Margaret Thatcher refused to negotiate and

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

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

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

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been called into question by the emergence of startling information,

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

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

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

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Documents detailing this secret channel and one government paper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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handwritten amendments have real significance. She had built up an

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

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not talking to terrorists. Margaret Thatcher has significantly edited

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

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

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Some claim that confidential papers show that Mrs Thatcher was more

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flexible than she portrayed herself. Others believe that there

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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power-sharing agreement. That brought them into conflict with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Irish state agreed new cross-border security arrangements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the position of no Irish involvement in Northern Ireland is to

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

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

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

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

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tragic death, and that there were other tragic influences being

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

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

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close to talks say that Cabinet members slowly convinced that a

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

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

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

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like Jim Prior. Six years previously, Garret FitzGerald had

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written that personal letter to Margaret Thatcher, telling her that

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

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agreement marked the final political breach with her political friend and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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trying to crush republicanism rather than deal with the conflict.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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determination to face down the IRA didn't waver.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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considered selective internment but decided to roll back from this and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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become the honest brokers of an evolving peace process which would

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give us the institutions people in Northern Ireland enjoyed today.

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Republicans and many nationalists, Margaret Thatcher was a modern

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

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

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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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