Thursday 17 October 2019

Cardinal hit back at prime minister after her 'lecture'

Shattered relations

Ed Carty

MARGARET Thatcher could not understand Irish animosity to the British considering that "even the Germans were now willing to be friends", state papers reveal.

Cardinal Tomas O Fiaich claimed that Thatcher lectured him on Northern Ireland and accused hunger strikers of being motivated by "demonstrating virility".

The Catholic cleric's account of his meeting with the British prime minister in the summer of 1981 left officials in no doubt about shattered Anglo-Irish relations.

"In general, the cardinal's account of his meeting with the prime minister reinforced the impression that she is insensitive and of an authoritarian disposition," a report to the Taoiseach's office stated.

The cardinal gave his views on Mrs Thatcher in a private meeting with Carmel Heaney, the consul general in Boston while in the US.

"He described her lecturing him and telling him she had read all the documents about Northern Ireland and didn't need to be told what it was all about," she wrote.

"She wondered if the motivation for the hunger strikers wasn't to demonstrate their virility!

"She could not understand the continued Irish animosity against the British considering that even the Germans were willing to be friends.

"Cardinal O Fiaich suggested that perhaps the reason the Germans were now friends with the British was that the British were no longer in occupation of Germany."

After Bobby Sands' death on May 5 and Francis Hughes' death on May 12, Cardinal O Fiaich sent a telegram pressurising Mrs Thatcher to reach a deal with the IRA.

The passionate appeal stated: "In God's name, don't allow another death."

The cardinal, who released the note to the press at the time, accused the prime minister of an "inflexible policy" on the prisons.

Mrs Thatcher replied publicly: "The solution does not lie in our hands. It lies with the hunger strikers themselves, their families and advisers."

Irish Independent

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