News Irish News

Wednesday 22 November 2017

1985 State papers: The Anglo-Irish agreement sows seeds for future peace in North

1985 marked a new era for peace here, write Ralph Riegel and Chris Parkin

An Taoiseach Dr Garret Fitzgerald and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher siging the Anglo-Irish Agreement on November 15 1985. Photo: Matt Walsh
An Taoiseach Dr Garret Fitzgerald and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher siging the Anglo-Irish Agreement on November 15 1985. Photo: Matt Walsh

Ralph Riegel and Chris Parkin

The politics of 1985 were entirely dominated on both sides of the Irish Sea by the landmark Anglo-Irish Agreement.

After tortuous negotiations, its signing by Taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was hailed as ushering in a new era of hope for Northern Ireland.

With the benefit of hindsight it is now clear that, if anything, the true potential of the agreement was underestimated - both in Ireland and the UK.

It not only formed the basis for closer links between Dublin and London but it kick-started the process that eventually led to the first of the IRA ceasefires and, years later, the Good Friday Agreement.

The power-sharing executive in Stormont has its roots in that momentous 1985 deal between Irish and British politicians who, just a few short years before - at the nadir of Anglo-Irish relations in the wake of the Falklands War - would never have dreamed such an understanding was possible.

On the domestic front, the year also witnessed the birth of the Progressive Democrats - who, over the next 30 years, would exert an influence on Irish politics far beyond their size.

The party was created on December 21, 1985, and - for a time in those heady first few years of its existence - genuinely threatened to break the mould of politics in Ireland.

Sadly, violence was never far removed from the current affairs agenda.

Ireland was shocked when a serving garda was shot and killed by an INLA gang during a labour exchange robbery in Co Louth.

Sergeant Pat Morrissey (49) was shot and killed by the terrorist gang as he bravely pursued them following the raid in Ardee.

The brutal manner of the sergeant's death - he was shot at point-blank range in an execution-style killing while already on the ground seriously wounded from an earlier bullet - sickened Irish society.

Ireland also found itself on the forefront of the battle against global terrorism after 329 people died when an Air India Boeing 747 was blown up by a bomb some 190km off the west Cork coast.

The tragedy on June 23 caused global outrage and, years later, it emerged the bombing was carried out by Sikh militants in retaliation for the actions of the Indian Government of Indira Gandhi.

Cork became the hub of a massive recovery operation, with the investigation into the atrocity being led by the Canadian authorities - as the plane was operating on the Montreal-London-New Delhi route.

The year also witnessed the opening of the so-called Kerry Babies tribunal.

It was created to deal with allegations surrounding the discovery of a dead baby at Cahersiveen in Kerry on April 14, 1984.

The tribunal ultimately cost more than IR£1m and, while its findings were mildly critical of the gardaí, it also provoked major controversy.

The Irish Women's Forum warned it had no confidence that women would ever receive justice within the Irish legal system.

In economic terms, Ireland continued to struggle to recover from the recession of the early 1980s.

One Government report grimly warned that the worst was yet to come - with emigration expected to spiral and major hospital closures likely amid enormous pressure to reduce public spending.

Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) was about to be born, while the Government struggled to cope with financial crises over Irish Steel, the Prison Service and the notorious Spike Island riot, inner city decline and school funding.

The year also witnessed the 'moving statue' phenomenon at Ballinspittle in Cork, the wreck of Charles Haughey's trawler off the south-west coast and the debate over a new Irish national lottery.

However, on the sporting front, Ireland had plenty to celebrate.

Barry McGuigan became WBA featherweight champion by beating Eusebio Pedroza in a thrilling bout in Shepherd's Bush in London on June 8.

Dennis Taylor won the Embassy World Snooker title.

Ireland won the rugby Triple Crown and the Five Nations Championship - with the victory over England proving particularly memorable.

Irish soccer internationals Kevin Moran, Paul McGrath and Frank Stapleton won FA Cup winners' medals as Manchester United beat Kevin Sheedy's Everton at Wembley Stadium.

However, Moran - a former Dublin GAA star - earned an unwanted place in the history books by becoming the first man to be sent off in an FA Cup final. Replays later showed the dismissal to have been incorrect.

In the League of Ireland, Shamrock Rovers took the title by six points over Bohemians.

In GAA, Kerry broke Dublin hearts for a second year running in the All-Ireland football final to lift the Sam Maguire on a scoreline of 2-12 to 2-8.

The championship was marked by both semi-finals having to go to replays.

In the hurling championship, Offaly maintained their hoodoo over Galway by beating them in a tightly contested match by a scoreline of 2-11 to 1-12 to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

It was the second time in four years Offaly had beaten Galway in an All-Ireland hurling final and made amends for their heartbreaking defeat to Cork in the 1984 Centenary final.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News