Sunday 23 November 2014

Highs but mainly lows in deeply troubled time

Published 09/04/2013 | 05:00

n Teapot summit

Margaret Thatcher's first face-to-face meeting with Charlie Haughey was best remembered for a teapot.

They met in London in May 1980 and the Taoiseach presented the British prime minister with a gift.

Although their relationship was often fraught, the initial meeting was regarded as a big success.

A diplomatic briefing ahead of the meeting described Mr Haughey as a man of "calculating and ruthless ambition". But the next day, Mrs Thatcher rang Mr Haughey to thank him for the "beautiful" teapot he gave her.

• Hunger strikes

Mrs Thatcher's hardline stance on hunger strikes by republican prisoners in Northern Ireland's Maze prison was blamed for the death of 10 inmates, including the leader of the Provisional IRA in the jail, Bobby Sands.

When he died in May 1981, 66 days after he first refused food, Mr Sands was the MP for Fermanagh-South Tyrone after a by-election a month earlier.

Although the British government made no public concessions to the strikers, the hunger strikers' demands were substantially met.

The dispute resulted in Sinn Fein emerging as a political force and was a significant recruiting platform for the IRA.

• Brighton bombing

In an attempt by the IRA to kill Margaret Thatcher, five people were killed and 34 injured in October 1984 when a bomb exploded at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, where the Conservative Party was holding its annual conference.

In public, Mrs Thatcher resolutely declared the conference would continue. "This attack has failed. All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail." Privately, she was said to have been terrified.

• Out . . . out . . . out

The New Ireland Forum was a body set up by Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald in a bid to resolve the Northern Ireland Troubles.

A summit took place November 1984 in Chequers, including Mr FitzGerald and Tanaiste Dick Spring, meeting Mrs Thatcher and British cabinet members.

Mrs Thatcher left Chequers for another appointment and held a press conference in Downing Street later that evening.

She said: "I have made it quite clear – and so did Mr Prior when he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – that a unified Ireland was one solution that is out.

"A second solution was confederation of two states. That is out.

"A third solution was joint authority. That is out. That is a derogation from sovereignty. We made that quite clear when the report was published."

• Anglo-Irish Agreement

The Anglo-Irish Agreement was a historic document aimed at resolving the Northern Ireland Troubles – and a significant stepping stone to the Good Friday Agreement more than a decade later.

In a move that enraged Unionism, for the first time the Irish government was given a role in events in the North.

The Agreement also stated there would be no change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland unless a majority of people wanted to join the Republic of Ireland.

It is viewed as a highlight of Dr FitzGerald's term as Taoiseach but was opposed by Charlie Haughey and Sinn Fein. The document also prompted Reverend Ian Paisley's infamous slogan, "Ulster Says No".

Irish Independent

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