Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher asked what the reaction would be if the British bombed the border town of Dundalk in county Louth when she met then Irish Taoiseach in 1985.
Notes of the conversation between the leaders at a meeting in Luxembourg during an EU summit a little over two weeks after the Anglo-Irish Agreement are contained in government files released this week under the 30-year rule.
In the conversation, the details of which are contained in a note by the then cabinet secretary, Dermot Nally, Mrs Thatcher demanded that Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald increase the rate at which IRA Volunteers were convicted or extradited.
“Can you give me evidence on which to charge more of them?” asked Mr FitzGerald. “If there is evidence against anybody, there are channels through which it can be communicated and action will be taken.”
“If we have evidence, we will get it to you,” responded Mrs Thatcher. Menacingly, she added: “People in the South come to the North to commit criminal acts and then dash back. What would you say if Dundalk were bombed to stop this?”
The Taoiseach responded only: “We have no evidence against people in Dundalk - if we had, we would arrest them.”
Thatcher’s focus in the conversation, which lasted for half an hour on December 3rd, 1985, was on unionist opposition to the agreement, which had been signed on November 15th.
Later in the conversation, Mr FitzGerald suggested that the then British Direct Ruler Tom King might indicate the possibility of early release for IRA prisoners if there was a sustained period of reduced violence after the agreement.
“That would be dynamite - no, not dynamite; nuclear,” Thatcher responded. “We could not think of relief for people guilty of bombing, of murder, of other atrocities”.