Thatcher’s legacy - We can learn some lessons

Margaret Thatcher has not been fondly remembered in this country.

She was a very British politician who essentially did not like the Irish, and if we are fair, it is hard to blame her.

Irish people killed her advisor, Airey Neave, with a car bomb within the precincts of the British parliament in 1979. He was a British war hero, as was Louis Mountbatten, who was murdered the same year while boating in Sligo with his grandchildren. That was as savage an affront to humanity as the outrage in Boston.

People here were highly critical of Thatcher’s handling of the H-Block hunger strikes in 1981. It is usually overlooked, however, that, although Eamon de Valera did vacillate once in 1940, he subsequently adopted an uncompromising approach towards hunger strikes throughout the remainder of his political career.

Thatcher was dismissive of the findings of the New Ireland Forum in 1984. Even though she was the target of an IRA bomb later the same year during the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton, she nevertheless played a vital role in negotiating the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. That agreement formally recognised, for the first time, this country’s right to be consulted in relation to the North, much to the ranting fury of Ian Paisley.

Britain had been plagued by industrial unrest in the 1970s, culminating in the Winter of Discontent, just before Thatcher came to power in 1979. During that year there were 4,583 work stoppages in Britain, with more that 29m working days lost.

By 1990, when she left office, the working days lost had dropped by more than 90%, and continued to fall during succeeding years. There were lessons there that should not be overlooked in this country at this time.

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