Declassified files: Irish viewed English as fickle and unpredictable, said ambassador

Irish politicians were sceptical of Westminster, the ambassador said
Irish politicians were sceptical of Westminster, the ambassador said

There was inherent insecurity and a feeling of frustration in Dublin’s relationship with London, the British ambassador to the Republic wrote in 1991.

David Blatherwick said that Irish politicians were acutely aware that their needs or wishes featured far down, if at all, in the priorities of British ministers and civil servants.

Mr Blatherwick, who had only arrived in post two months earlier after being British ambassador to the United Nations, had spent several years at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) in the early 1980s.

In a confidential November 15, 1991 memo to NIO officials in Belfast, Mr Blatherwick said that the Irish viewed British politicians and attitudes as “fickle and unpredictable”.

He said that the Irish “are only too aware that they rank low in the priorities of most Englishmen.

“They watch secretaries of state come and go, applying different policies during steep (and sometimes not so steep) learning curves.

“They feel neglected, frustrated and insecure.

“When, as now, a secretary of state [Peter Brooke] gains their respect and confidence, they are uncomfortably aware of the Westminster electoral cycle and wonder who will be running Stormont in a year’s time.”

The senior diplomat also went on to say: “It is indeed an assumption among the chattering classes in the Republic that ‘progress’ in the North involves the steady advance of nationalist interests, accompanied by the ‘education’ of unionists.

“This assumption stems largely from a view of Irish nationalism which many here absorbed with their mother’s milk.

“Its corollary is a belief that a solution in the North entails boosting the nationalists’ position in order to counter-balance the unionists’.”