Irish Republican News · January 6, 2017
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
How Thatcher and Fitzgerald plotted to defeat IRA


State papers have shown the degree to which former 26 County Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald accepted the Tory line in exchanges with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago.

Despite the 30-year rule, many of the 1986 papers have again been withheld for ‘national security’ reasons, including almost all those on the transformative split which took place within Sinn Fein following the party’s annual conference that year.

However, conversations between the Taoiseach and British prime minister in 1986 were among those which were released, including one in which Thatcher even suggested the expulsion of nationalist population from the north of Ireland.

The exchange followed a detailed discussion of the so-called ‘security’ problem, with Thatcher saying there could not be real progress while the IRA campaign continued.

“When I started out we had in mind, in our own internal discussions, helicopters on the Border with the right to fly five miles in either direction.

“There would have been a broad corridor about the Border. That disappeared! We have not got anything like it now. We haven’t got that kind of corridor. You haven’t the resources to maintain protection on the other side of the Border.”

During the discussion on military and policing operations, which dominated the exchanges, FitzGerald admitted both forces “have a next-to-impossible Border to watch”.

“Yes. We got it wrong in 1921,” said Thatcher, who had called for it to be moved to make it easier to patrol.

She said that in some places in the 26 Counties, like Dundalk, there was a great deal of “sympathy” with “terrorists”.

FitzGerald replied: “So many people from the North come down to the South and live there. We have 200 people from the North in our jails. You can have them back any time you want.

Thatcher retorted: “I don’t want them. You can have all the nationalists in the North if you like”.

Another conversation came during a European summit in The Hague on June 27th, when Thatcher hailed Fitzgerald’s efforts to stymie Irish-American support for the armed struggle.

“The important thing is to stop the flow of money from Libya as has effectively happened with the US,” said FitzGerald. “You have done a fantastic job there,” replied Thatcher.

FitzGerald also said he was willing to push an Extradition Act but said it could not be done unless there were changes in the juryless ‘Diplock’ courts in the north of Ireland. Thatcher would not agree. “We will go firmly,” she replied. “We need the Extradition Act without derogation.”

FitzGerald expressed concern over what would happen to the extradition agreements if his government lost power in the coming months, which he thought likely, and the more nationalist Fianna Fail leader Charles Haughey came to power.

He said: “Mr Haughey will not, I think, disturb the agreement. If we have got the extradition legislation on the statute book I believe he won’t disturb that either, though he himself could not, politically, introduce it.”

Another exchange on the issue of potential nuclear disaster at Sellafield confirmed the unusual degree of subservience shown by Fitzgerald towards Thatcher.

“Last week the Dail passed a motion asking that Sellafield be closed,” he said. “ If I am asked whether I raised this with you at this meeting I will have to say that I did. This, I know, is contrary to our understanding about these meetings that whatever we discuss is not made public afterwards,” said FitzGerald.

“Noted,” she replied.

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