“I would put Thatcher in the same category. The reason I didn’t put out a statement on learning of her death is that I want to emphasize the positive,” said King, who once called the IRA “the legitimate voice of occupied Ireland” but dialed back his involvement in the North after the 9/11 attacks.
“She was a strong ally of the U.S. and I give her tremendous credit for that, but not on Northern Ireland, where I was very involved during the time of the hunger strikes and throughout her time as prime minister.”
King cites the notorious shoot-to-kill policy, the Stalker report, the so-called supergrass trials, and the Diplock courts among examples of the wrong-headedness of Thatcher’s approach and he admits her political intransigence helped to prolong the war in the North.
“Tony Blair had a much larger vision when it came to Northern Ireland,” King admits.
“Thatcher looked upon it as part of her job to preserve the British Empire. I think she saw Northern Ireland as a terrorist issue, not realizing that human rights were being violated. I don’t know how much thought or focus she gave to it.”
But unlike most Irish American leaders, King parcels out her legacy as a mixed bag.
“She did what had to be done. Britain was going through a very rough time and I give her credit for bringing it back. I give her credit for a very strong alliance with the U.S. I have a very divided view of her legacy,” he says.
Brendan Moore, the national president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians told the Irish Voice, “I haven’t polled anyone in the organization, I can only tell you personally that I was the national Freedom for All Ireland chairman for 14 years, and my purview was the north of Ireland and lobbying on behalf of the six counties.
“In my view Margaret Thatcher demonstrated incredible inhuman insensitivity bordering on heartlessness when it came to the six counties and into the lives of British people too. She just trampled all over them. She consistently refused to acknowledge any polices contrary to her own perceptions.”
Jack Meehan, former president of the AOH, experienced her foreign policy first hand.
“I happened to be very much involved when the hunger strikes were going on in the 1980s and when Joe Doherty, who had escaped from Crumlin Road Jail, was incarcerated here in the U.S.,” he remembers.
“I cannot find one redeeming factor about the woman, to be honest with you. Thatcher was a terrible person, not only for the Irish but also for her own people. Look what she did to the miners.”