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Tuesday 24 October 2017

Government privately welcomed Thatcher's re-election

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher'
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher'

Ralph Riegel and Chris Parkin

A CONFIDENTIAL memo reveals that the Government privately welcomed Margaret Thatcher's landslide re-election in 1983 as good for Ireland.

The memo, submitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs from Ireland's London Embassy, also revealed that differences that emerged over Ireland's attitude towards Britain's adventures in the Falkland Islands in 1982 rumbled on for at least a year.

The memo said a strong Tory administration was likely to be more positive than negative for Ireland.

"A strong government, with the largest Tory majority since the last war, has just been elected. It is true that the party now contains a powerful anti-liberal lobby on the Tory right and an inner Cabinet packed with supporters of the prime minister," the memo outlined.

"But an experience of the past has shown that there may be more hope of a radical approach to the problem of peace in Ireland from a strong Conservative government than from a weak Labour government or from alliance in partnership."

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The adviser also warned that Labour's economic policies would have had dramatic implications for Ireland, adding: "Another positive factor is the likelihood that under the Conservative government the punt will continue to enjoy its export differential as against sterling.

"A Labour government, as in France, would have very likely led to a depreciation in sterling and the imposition of import controls, which, in the context of a move out of the (EEC) community would have caused us great economic upheaval."

The memo also singled out Geoffrey Howe as a strong potential friend of Ireland within the British Cabinet.

And it also raised concerns over how the British reacted to the defeat of the SDLP's Gerry Fitt in west Belfast.

"The defeat . . . was greatly regretted in Westminster where his courage was widely admired," it said.

Irish Independent

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