Margaret Thatcher explored the removal of voting rights from an estimated 500,000 citizens of the Republic living in Britain after Ireland backed Argentina in the Falklands/Malvinas war in 1982. New historical documents on the seriousness of the breach between the two countries have just been revealed.
British anger was fueled by a comment from Ireland’s defence minister that. “Obviously Britain is the aggressor now,” after the Belgrano battleship was sunk as it sailed away from the combat zone.
The new documents also show that the then Irish leader Charles Haughey described the Falklands conflict as “a ridiculous war, a war that should not have happened,” in a private diplomatic exchange,
In addition, the Irish Exporters Association (IEA) told Haughey there was a massive trade “backlash” in the UK against Irish firms because of Ireland’s Falklands policy.
A senior member of the Guinness family warned the Irish embassy that Guinness would have to play down its links to Ireland because of hostile reaction to the Irish government policy.
Thatcher also told U.S. president Ronald Reagan that “relations between London and Dublin have certainly taken a turn for the worse as a result of some damaging Irish interventions in the EC and UN over the Falklands.”
A senior British diplomat told the Irish government that the damage was long term. A note from the Department of Foreign Affairs on the British comments stated;
“The damage in their view was not merely a short-term problem, on the contrary our actions would be long remembered in Britain.”
British ambassador Sir Leonard Figg prepared a report on the “serious worsening” of relations.
Ireland had originally supported the British in the war but after the Belgrano was sunk with the loss of hundreds of lives, the tenor of the Irish reaction changed.