The Irish have mixed memories of “The Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher
Britain's first female Prime Minister passes away at the age of 87
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams’ reaction to the death at the age of 87 of Baroness Margaret Thatcher was hardly surprising. He delivered a scathing assessment of her political legacy in Ireland.
He said Britain’s first woman prime minister, who died on Monday following a stroke, did great hurt to the Irish and British people.
“Here in Ireland her espousal of old draconian militaristic policies prolonged the war and caused great suffering,” Adams said in a statement.
He accused her of embracing censorship, collusion and the use of lethal force in covert operations.
“Her failed efforts to criminalize the Republican struggle and the political prisoners, is part of her legacy,” he added. “It should be noted that in complete contradiction of her public posturing, she authorized a back channel of communications with the Sinn Fein leadership but failed to act on the logic of this.”
Adams insisted, “Margaret Thatcher will be especially remembered for her shameful role during the epic hunger strikes of 1980 and ‘81. Her Irish policy failed miserably.”
There were street parties in parts of Derry and Belfast on Monday celebrating Thatcher’s passing, but Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, deputy first minister of the North, called for the celebrations to end.
McGuinness tweeted, “Resist celebrating the death of Margaret Thatcher. She was not a peacemaker but it is a mistake to allow her death to poison our minds.”
The Democratic Unionist Party strongly opposed Thatcher’s decision to give the Republic of Ireland a greater role in Northern Ireland affairs with the signing of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, but its current leader Peter Robinson still hailed her as a defender of the Union.
Robinson said, “Whilst we disagreed over the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Mrs. Thatcher was committed to the Union and later described the Anglo-Irish Agreement as one of her greatest regrets. Although relations were frosty at that time, I had a private social lunch with her in more recent years in much more convivial and positive circumstances.”
Thatcher has long been vilified by Republicans and Nationalists over her involvement in Northern Ireland, in particular her handling of the IRA hunger strikes inside the Maze prison. She was a top target of the IRA, which nearly succeeded in killing her in the deadly Brighton bomb blast of 1984.
In the months before Thatcher took office in 1979, an INLA car bomb killed her close political ally Airey Neave, a Conservative Party spokesman on Northern Ireland, as he drove out of the underground car park at the Palace of Westminster.
Neave, a former intelligence officer who once escaped from the Nazi prison camp at Colditz, believed in taking much tougher security measures against Republican paramilitaries in Northern Ireland. It was a view that fitted in with Thatcher’s own and may well have helped to shape it.
As she was settling into office, a series of IRA murders claimed the Queen’s cousin Lord Mountbatten at Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo, in 1979, and the same day killed 18 British soldiers in Northern Ireland.
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