Papers show pressure before London buckled over accord

Morning View
Morning View

The newly released Dublin papers relating to November 1984 talks between Garret FitzGerald and Margaret Thatcher make depressing reading for unionists.

It is no surprise to read that the Taoiseach was haranguing the British Prime Minister so that the Republic (in effect) would be able to rule Northern Ireland jointly with London at that time.

After all, such agitating was rewarded a year later in the Anglo-Irish Agreement — a step towards joint authority that was imposed on the pro-British population in the Province.

But while there are few surprises in the content of the Chequers meeting of late 1984, revealed in Irish memos that have just been unveiled under the Republic’s 30-year rule, it is wearying nonetheless to be reminded of the interfering mindset that has prevailed in Dublin since 1921.

Mr FitzGerald — a smart and cultured leader of Fine Gael, with mixed religious ancestry — was one of the most moderate of the Republic’s prime ministers, yet even he had the nerve to demand a say in the internal running of Northern Ireland.

Given the Republic’s shameful failure to prevent Provisional IRA murder gangs using their territory as a safe haven (a failure rooted both in incompetence and wilful inaction), any demand to have such an input into the running of this Province ought to have been treated with contempt.

Margaret Thatcher, who was almost murdered by the IRA weeks before the Chequers talks, responded in an appropriately dismissive fashion to Mr FitzGerald’s demands.

The note of that summit shows that she was instinctively loyal to unionists in Northern Ireland, and alert to nationalist machinations.

But sadly, indeed shockingly, that fine British leader at some point over the following 12 months buckled disastrously, and was fooled into the Anglo-Irish pact, partly because she was told that Dublin would get tough on IRA terror.

There was fat chance of that happening. And it didn’t.