Thatcher considered redrawing North of Ireland border

By on January 3, 2014
Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher

MARGARET THATCHER considered changing the border in the North of Ireland to bring some predominantly Catholic areas into the Republic, British state papers have revealed.

Her 1984 cabinet discussed the proposal to “produce a more homogeneous population in Northern Ireland”.

However, the plan was abandoned with the then NI Secretary Jim Prior noting that it would only be considered, “if we were faced with imminent civil war, or as a result of civil war but I do not believe that we have reached that stage.”

The documents laid out negotiations between the Irish and British Governments in the run up to the 1985 Anglo-Irish agreement.

The Financial Times reported that the talks detailed a “pessimistic tone” about whether a deal could be done.

Thatcher is reported to have said: “The Irish want more than we can give and always will. I doubt whether we shall find a way forward.”

Former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald is also reported to have considered holding a referendum to give up the Republic’s constitutional claim on Northern Ireland in return for a number of concessions.

The proposed compromise included reforms of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the introduction of north-south “mixed courts” with judges from both sides of the border.

But continued violence hampered negotiations between the Irish and British Governments, with the IRA’s 1984 bombing of the Brighton Hotel during the Conservative conference almost derailing talks completely.

After the bombing, which killed five prominent Conservatives including one MP, Thatcher is reported to have said, “The events of Thursday night at Brighton mean that we must go very slow on these talks, if not stop them. It would look as if we were bombed into making concessions to the Republic.”

Irish Post

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