John McDonagh, co-host of the dissident New York-based Saturday talkshow Radio Free Eireann, noticed that a carnival-like atmosphere erupted among hardline Republicans after news of Thatcher’s passing. So many called celebrating that a party marking her passing is planned for Saturday in Brooklyn.
“From the moment her death was announced on Monday morning my phone has been ringing off the hook. I’m receiving multiple texts and emails and they’re all asking one thing: where will the party be held?” McDonagh said.
McDonagh’s Radio Free Eireann website has had a Thatcher deathwatch clock posted for five years.
“You know we almost gave up, because we thought she was like Kissinger and would never die. We thought she had made a pact with the devil and would be preserved forever,” he said.
Responding to the deluge of requests, McDonagh announced what he calls an Irish wake “to celebrate the end of Thatcher’s life” at Rocky Sullivan’s in Red Hook, Brooklyn on Saturday, April 13, from 3-6 p.m.
“I’ve just come off the phone with musician and publican Chris Byrne and we’re coming up with a program for a couple of hours to reminisce about the horror of her life and legacy,” McDonagh says. He’s expecting a packed house“If you look at the Internet and you see what’s happening on the Falls Road in Belfast and in Derry and in Britain too, parties are erupting. Streets are being blocked and champagne is being corked. You don’t get that when a beloved leader has passed,” McDonagh told the Irish Voice.
Irish Americans in New York in particular felt her policies, McDonagh claimed.
“At one stage, I recall, she tried to stop the NYPD Emerald Pipe Band from marching at a rally for the hunger strikers in Bundoran in Donegal. She contacted Ronald Reagan to put a stop to it,” he said.
Thatcher also banned activist lawyer Martin Galvin from Irish Northern Aid from speaking in the six counties in the 1980s, McDonagh said.
“I was over there for that rally where the IRA snuck him in to Belfast and during it plastic bullets were shot at us. Sean Downes was shot dead during the internment commemoration rally in 1984,” McDonagh recalls.
“Father Maurice Burke from Staten Island gave him last rights at the scene. So there was a real connection between her polices in Northern Ireland and Irish America.”
On another occasion, McDonagh and fellow activist Brian Moore rented a billboard in Times Square in support of IRA prisoners in England, Ireland and America. Thatcher responded by bluntly questioning the American ambassador to Britain to find out who had erected it and why it had been permitted..
After Margaret Thatcher, 87, credited as the most divisive British leader in modern times, passed away on Monday morning many Irish Americans rejoiced.
But even in death her conflict-ridden legacy was still on full public view as street parties featuring champagne and cake erupted in parts of the U.K. and in Nationalist areas of the North on Monday evening.
To the majority of Irish American leaders, Thatcher’s utter intransigence over her 11 years as prime minister of Britain prolonged the war in the North, even as her policies tore her own society apart.
From the day she took office, critics contend, Thatcher waged an endless war on Irish Republicans. It’s a legacy that still rankles even two and half decades after it abruptly came to an end.
Long Island Congressman Peter King, who has been heavily involved in Irish Republican politics in the North since the 1970s, told the Irish Voice on Tuesday, “I have to compartmentalize my response to her legacy. I think she did an outstanding job with her overall foreign policy in regard to the Soviet Union for example, but I strongly disagreed with her policies in Northern Ireland. She had a blind spot there.”
By way of analogy, King cites Winston Churchill, who was a great British leader in World War II but who had a blind spot when it came to India.
“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.”