UTV’s Thatcher’s Ireland: “She stood firm…”

Last night’s Thatcher’s Ireland from UTV has breadth, nuance, great editorial intellectual content and some of the most acute insight on Thatcher you’ll hear in the next week.

It’s a revelation of the machiavellian core of politics… Paisley, dismisses the Hunger Strike as ‘a purely political stunt’… Mrs Thatcher’s actions at the most critical of times influenced through a chain of allegiances through the United States..

You can watch the whole programme in the following chapters…

1. Beginnings.

Denis Tuohy opens with a classic, “Margaret Thatcher’s strident views on Northern Ireland would bring her much soul searching…”

Or Paul Bew’s “particularly when viewed from a Scottish point of view, I essentially think that Margaret Thatcher was an English nationalist”

2. Hunger Strikes.

“…then there would have been a seismic shift and dealing with really determined future in the would have been undermined because they had demonstrated that they could roll over a British government and Margaret was not going to be rolled over…” – Brian Mawhinney

“Nobody goes on Hunger Strike to die. They go on hunger strike to create pressure towards a solution. There was clearly the makings of a resolution, and I don’t know if it was Thatcher or her Government but put quite simply, she wanted a security solution, she wanted victory and defeat…” – Gerry Kelly

3. Brighton Bomb.

“She was involved in all policies where she had the blood of Irish citizens on her hand, so that it is not surprising that moreso Margaret Thatcher than anyone else that republicans wanted rid of her” – Gerry Kelly

“That was a huge personal blow, but equally, the iron entered the soul…” – George Jones

4. Anglo Irish.

“The southern politicians are very persuasive as eh, I mean they put their way well as Irishmen…” – Ian Paisley

“… the State Department, which was upset by the Speaker’s criticism of US strategy in Latin America, said ‘we have got to do something to buy Tip off.. Being in Ronnie’s good books was why she did it by the way…” – Professor Paul Bew.

5. The Closing Years.

“It was a slightly defeatist thing to say they mustn’t be hear lest people believe them. I think it would have been better to make sure that people didn’t believe them…” – Norman Tebbitt

– “And you know, the silent witness of this service is very important” – Margaret Thatcher

– “Tremendous stamina. Tremendous intellect. But she hadn’t the most important thing that any politician must have, which is concern for other human beings…” – Seamus Mallon

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  • Brian Walker

    Just back from the snow capped peaks of Ulster..

    A splendid programme. Amazing how Sinn Fein continually manage to present themselves mainly as representing victims. Condemnation of the IRA was somewhat devalued by being left to the intransigent Mrs T and Norman Tebbit.to express it.

    It would have been good to have touched on abortive ideas for ending the hunger strike after the 4 deaths and the Haughey plan mentioned by PJ Mara But that’s probably a different programme.

    Isn’t Paisley looking well!

    The orgy of reminiscence over the GFA and Thatcher shows surely that there’s little to be gained in making a big effort for “truth recovery” Whose truth, what recovery? Best to resume from where we are, Spanish style, with our new order in place?

  • BarneyT

    The hunger strike was regrettable and sad for many reasons.

    Looking at Gerry Kellys remark, he is correct in terms of the “tool” that a hunger strike offers

    “They go on hunger strike to create pressure towards a solution”

    However, if you are trying to call a bluff, you need to understand the player sitting across the table.

    I don’t believe this was done.

  • Mick Fealty

    It was superb television Brian.. which shows the real benefit of having time to the best possible job you know you can… There was barely weak link it… I had about three the number of quotes shown above, but I didn’t want to overkill it…

    Barney that’s true, but it comes more authoritatively from Mallon than Kelly if only for for the pure fact that we know that in the first year of the blanket six prison officers died as part of the IRA’s external pressures… Some of the later victims, like Patrick Macken from Old Park, had already retired by the time they were killed (his wife died too trying to protect him)…

  • tacapall

    Lets get it right Mick she stood firm in public but the truth is there for all to see that the prisoners got the demands they wanted and even more, in the end.

  • Mick Fealty

    I suspect it was ‘business’ to her… which is one reason why so many of us had a bad reaction to her… She also cut all remissions in 88 in response to the IRA’s ‘Tet’…

  • tacapall

    The IRAs Tet, it was more of when in Rome do as the Romans do, fight fire with fire and all that, the IRA matched her inhumanity like for like.

    She cut remissions !

    She once again bent the rules to sort her policy, a crime is a crime is a crime, she cut remission for politically sentenced prisoners of non jury diplock courts, ordinary joe blogg criminals remission stayed the same at 50%.

  • Mick Fealty

    Those particular rules were set by Merlyn Reese Tac… She wasn’t bending them, she was enforcing them…

  • tacapall

    True Mick, but what im saying is, on the one hand she was publicly calling political prisoners common criminals but on the other hand treating them as something different.

  • Mick Fealty

    Everything has a price in the market Tac… [and I’m only half joking…]

  • BarneyT

    The Torys haven’t cover themselves in pride when it comes to NI, with the Heath government and Thatchers first term. Labour, the left, seems to get off lightly…but on both occasions the respective Labour and Lib\Lab governments set up some snow balls for the Tories to throw…and they threw them well.

  • @tacapall,

    First, she was a politician and had several different constituencies to keep happy. But you as a nationalist should recognize that the Republicans benefited from this. Prisoners were sentenced to discrete sentences as criminals and eligible for a third or a half remission of these sentences for good behavior. Yet after the GFA they were treated as security prisoners and let out early. Had they been treated as security prisoners (POWs) from the start many more would have remained locked up for decades and the IRA and INLA would have been deprived of key personnel such as bomb makers that could not easily have been replaced. And if this had occurred loyalists might not have felt so insecure and so committed less violence. I realize that many of the loyalists were simply anti-Catholic bigots and most of the leadership from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s were simply criminals. But some, like David Ervine, were simply working class people trying to protect their communities. They perceived that the British state was not doing everything possible to defeat the IRA and so took matters into their own hands.

  • latcheeco

    Paisley’s response to her death might also be described as purely political, after all, other than liking who themmuns don’t on principal, it’s hard to understand why more unionists don’t admit Mrs.Thatcher’s entire tenure was disasterous for unionism

    For example, in her first term, and against much sound advice, her hardheadedness managed to:
    i. pull a war weary IRA out of the doldrums, energize it, and hand it a recruitment bonanza
    ii. embitter, enrage, radicalize, and greatly enlarge its support base in Ireland, giving the fish much more water to swim in
    iii. Radically raise its international profile and financial support, especially in North America
    iv. Pluck Sinn Fein from complete obscurity to create a new political second front which in the ensuing years would be at least as troublesome to control and contain

    In her second term that same hardheadedness:
    v. Managed to completely alienate every single unionist man woman and child in Northern Ireland by forcing through an agreement which gave a foreign government input into the internal affairs of their part of the United Kingdom
    vi.Signed a treaty which proved that Northern Ireland clearly was not such an integral part of said Kingdom and thus vindicated those who had claimed to be imprisoned because of a political and not criminal problem
    vii. Legally permitted functioning civil servants from another sovereign country which laid claim to part of theirs to play a role in its administration
    viii. Forced unionist parties in opposition to the agreement into a huge tactical error and, by finally calling their bluff and facing them down, handed them an embarassing defeat from which they have never recovered

    Through her second to her last term her government:
    viii. Undermined most of the principles of British democracy and proved the citizens in the North were not really British through censorship of political opponents, extra judicial execution, and sponsoring terrorist gangs which was of course anathema to the lawbiding people of Ulster
    ix. Allowed, due to the monumental failure of the security services under her watch, her sworn enemies to be armed beyond their wildest imaginations giving them more matériel than they knew what to do with, and insodoing afforded them the longevity, capability, and versatility which made the security/military solution she and unionists sought now impossible
    x. Permitted unionism’s enemies, because of this blunder , ultimately to directly target the real jewel in the crown, the City of London, and increase their own bargaining position expotentially while at the same time undermining and sidelining the effectivenes of unionism’s traditional threats of disorder and rebellion in the pravince .

    Hardly a record for unionists to admire.

  • GEF

    Looks like republicans are having some party in Derry celebrating Thatcher’s death.


  • FDM

    @latcheeco 2 April 2013 at 3:24 am


    Very good summary.

  • tacapall

    timitch you really dont know much about the prison system in the six counties – “Prisoners were sentenced to discrete sentences as criminals and eligible for a third or a half remission of these sentences for good behavior.” I dont think any republicans imprisoned during that period worried about remission or good behaviour, in fact quite the opposite.

    “Yet after the GFA they were treated as security prisoners and let out early. Had they been treated as security prisoners (POWs) from the start many more would have remained locked up for decades and the IRA and INLA would have been deprived of key personnel such as bomb makers that could not easily have been replaced”

    Im not sure what your trying to say above but the reason they were released early was because the IRA and INLA called ceasefires and therefore didn’t need key personnel like bombmakers to be replaced.

    David Ervine was a member of an illegal organisation that murdered innocent people, not for the protection of his area but to keep the British presence in the six counties. The UVF has from its formation been another arm of the British war machine, they were armed, controlled and directed by British intelligence, maybe you haven’t heard or read about the vast amount of evidence available concerning collusion between the British state and loyalist paramilitaries.

  • Reader

    latcheeco: Paisley’s response to her death might also be described as purely political, after all, other than liking who themmuns don’t on principal, it’s hard to understand why more unionists don’t admit Mrs.Thatcher’s entire tenure was disasterous for unionism
    Unionists don’t really believe all of the stuff in your list, But mostly it’s the local zero sum game. If you want unionists to hate Thatcher you need to pretend to like her on account of some of the points you listed. Can you manage that?
    I like to think I have moved on from the zero-sum mentality, I was in any case relaxed about the AIA and supported the GFA. My perspective on Thatcher was shaped by the following:
    1) At least Thatcher wasn’t Ken Livingston, Micheal Foot or Neil Kinnock. I can’t see them getting a grip on the situation.
    2) Although little has been said about this recently, the AIA also annoyed the Provos by undermining their support across Ireland and further afield. Indeed, the nordies no longer set the nationalist agenda.
    3) The AIA was a political deal with essentially administrative delivery. Constitutional change just had to wait. Nationalists on Slugger occasionally mention her Out, Out, Out list – and yet it shaped the Good Friday Agreement too.

  • @tacapall,

    If republicans and loyalists had been considered from the start of the conflict (1969 or 1971) as security prisoners to be held until the conflict was over they wouldn’t have been released after on average nine years for a life sentence. Those bombmakers would have been removed from the conflict for good.

    Re collusion, I have seen some of the evidence including the report that FDM posted the link for, which admitted that there was no official policy of intelligence leakage but merely a failure to prevent individuals from doing it. There may have been collusion, I however, find it hard to understand why when a British agent in most cases a turned terrorist is supported by British intelligence in order to gain intelligence on his organization this is considered collusion but when a turned republican terrorist receives the same thing he is just written off as a tout. Seems to me to be a case of double standards. Now if I had someone whose reputation I trusted lay out a case for collusion, I might be convinced.

  • Latcheeco[2.24] As Rick Wilford put it on the ‘View’ the other night, unionists were indulging in revisionism in their desperation not to give any satifaction to ‘themmuns’ as that would be sticking in their craw. They were craven and succeeded in looking ridiculous by claiming that MT’s ‘regrets’ in her memoirs were directed to sympathy for unionists who they then forgave, while in reality she was expressing regret’s that the security benefits expected were not achieved through the AIA. Unionists also chose to overlook her expression of praise for Bobby Sands ‘courage in resolve, but not in their murderous cause’ That’s plainly ridiculous as a political cause isn’t murderous, it the tactics to bring it about that were murderous. She’s a bit comnfused there, but that’s ok for unionists to keep schtum about the rallies and NEVER4 declamation and visceral hatred of her at the time.

  • Greenflag

    Mrs Thatcher was never persuaded by the leaders of Unionism in NI .She did not think much of them as either politicians or their capabilities of resolving the NI issue and that more than anything else was why she signed the AIA . In any event she was more interested in the wider issue of the British economy and world politics and of course her ‘ideology ‘ of the market uber alles .

    Northern Ireland was frankly a ‘bore ‘ for the Iron lady and she did’nt really care to get too involved other than go through the motions .She was persuaded at one point to consider a ‘repartition ‘ of NI and might have tried to implement it had her military advisors among others not convinced her that it would make matters only worse for the Army and would worsen relations with the Republic .

  • Greenflag

    Not many will remember or even of heard of this North Dubliner who might have become a Tory Minister had he not been a bit of a lad ‘

    In 1975, he became her advisor while she was Leader of the Opposition. He may have been the role model for Sir Roger O’Neill in the House of Cards TV series ?

    A follower of the Reggie Maudling approach to life’s problems alas did him in -in the end .

  • Greenflag


    He was not related to the Cosgraves of FG and was brought up in Finglas and went to school in St Vincents CBS in Glasnevin which is next door to Bertie Aherns former fiefdom of Drumcondra.