Ireland reacts to Thatcher’s death
Ireland reacts to Thatcher’s death


There has been a mixed reaction in Ireland at news of the death of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

At official level, the response in Dublin to news of her death was tight-lipped.

In an ambivalent statement, President Michael D Higgins said Mrs Thatcher’s would be “remembered as one of the most conviction-driven British prime ministers” who “drew on a scholarship that demanded markets without regulation”.

“The policies of Mrs Thatcher’s government in regard to Northern Ireland gave rise to considerable debate at the time.

“However, her key role in signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement will be recalled as a valuable early contribution to the search for peace and political stability.”

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny described Mrs Thatcher as a formidable leader.

“Mrs Thatcher was a formidable political leader who had a significant impact on British, European and world politics. During her 11 years as prime minister, she defined an era in British public life,” he said.

“While her period of office came at a challenging time for British-Irish relations, when the violent conflict in Northern Ireland was at its peak, Mrs Thatcher signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement which laid the foundation for improved North-South cooperation and ultimately the Good Friday Agreement.”

But on the streets, there were bitter memories, particularly in Belfast. Memories of her prolonged and murderous military and security campaign, the deaths of Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers, and murders directly linked to Downing Street, such as that of Pat Finucane, remain painful for many.

Others, however, expressed satisfaction, even delight, that an old enemy had gone. There were street celebrations in Scotland, England and Wales, where her notorious ‘poll tax’ and privatisation of coal mines profoundly divided British society in a manner which still has serious repercussions today.

Known as the “Iron Lady”, Thatcher dominated Irish politics for two decades. While mostly associated with her vicious determination to secure a military victory in the Six Counties and her tragic efforts to criminalise Irish political prisoners, she gained enemies both across the globe and at home in Britain with an aggressive, right-wing ‘Thatcherite’ approach with which she became synonymous.

British prime minister David Cameron lavished praise on the ‘Iron Lady’, and said she would be given a full ceremonial funeral with military honours.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said Thatcher had done “great hurt” to the Irish and British people during her time as British Prime Minister.

“Working class communities were devastated in Britain because of her policies,” he said.

“Her role in international affairs was equally belligerent whether in support of the Chilean dictator Pinochet, her opposition to sanctions against apartheid South Africa; and her support for the Khmer Rouge.

“Here in Ireland her espousal of old draconian militaristic policies prolonged the war and caused great suffering. She embraced censorship, collusion and the killing of citizens by covert operations, including the targeting of solicitors like Pat Finucane, alongside more open military operations and refused to recognise the rights of citizens to vote for parties of their choice.

“Her failed efforts to criminalise the republican struggle and the political prisoners is part of her legacy.

“It should be noted that in complete contradiction of her public posturing, she authorised a back channel of communications with the Sinn Fein leadership but failed to act on the logic of this.

“Unfortunately she was faced with weak Irish governments who failed to oppose her securocrat agenda or to enlist international support in defence of citizens in the north.

“Margaret Thatcher will be especially remembered for her shameful role during the epic hunger strikes of 1980 and 81.

“Her Irish policy failed miserably.”

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