Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald personally pleaded with US President Ronald Reagan to force British leader Margaret Thatcher to compromise on the Hunger Strikes according to state papers released on Friday.
The newly published documents, released under the 30-year rule, state that then Irish PM FitzGerald asked Reagan to intervene in the 1981 Hunger Strikes which claimed 10 lives.
Fine Gael leader FitzGerald had only come to power when he made contact with the US President in a desperate bid to end the Hunger Strike impasse at the Maze Prison.
FitzGerald had warned Thatcher and Reagan that Ireland’s democracy was seriously under threat while relations with Britain were plunging to dangerous depths.
He told President Reagan that he could play a decisive role in ending the IRA prisoner fast if he contacted Thatcher.
The Irish Examiner reports that a letter to Reagan, dated July 1981, was drafted after six prisoners had died in the H Blocks and Kieran Doherty, who had been elected TD for Cavan-Monaghan, was close to death.
The documents report that FitzGerald said it was his duty to seek the cooperation of “the leader of the greatest democracy on earth”.
He wrote: “I would ask you to use your enormous influence with the British prime minister within the next 24 hours in the interest of averting a death which would inevitably increase support for the terrorists and further undermine the stability of our democracy in a dangerous way and can only harm the interests of the British, Irish and American governments.
“I believe that an expression of your concern to Mrs Thatcher of the deterioration in the state of opinion among Americans of Irish extraction and among many other Americans and of the urgent necessity to avert the consequences which would result from Mr Doherty’s death could be of decisive importance.
“Ireland is facing a desperate crisis in the fight against support for terrorism, which is at an all-time high, particularly from America.
“The British government is understandably concerned not to make concessions to IRA inmates, which would give them a privileged status or cede control of prisons.
“I would be most grateful if you could consider using your good offices with Prime Minister Thatcher to pressure the British into accepting the understanding mediated by the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace before the death of Mr Doherty and its very dangerous consequences.”
The Examiner also reports that State files show that some weeks later US senator Ted Kennedy and 17 colleagues wrote to President Reagan, seeking a meeting about the impact of the hunger strikes.
Kieran Doherty died on August 2, on the 73rd day of his hunger strike, aged 25.