State Papers 1987: Thatcher criticised Haughey over lack of terrorist extraditions

The British PM hit out over cases that collapsed in the Irish courts, writes Seán MacCárthaigh

State Papers 1987: Thatcher criticised Haughey over lack of terrorist extraditions

The British prime minister Margret Thatcher expressed anger at the taoiseach Charles Haughey over the lack of extradition of terrorist suspects from Ireland to the UK when the two political leaders met on the fringes of an EU summit in Copenhagen in 1987.

State records released under the 30-year rule show Ms Thatcher criticised Mr Haughey during a 30-minute meeting on December 4, 1987 for how several extradition cases had collapsed in the Irish courts for what the British regarded as “frivolous” reasons.

Ms Thatcher claimed one extradition case had been thrown out of court because “documents were not stapled together”. She was also afraid that the Irish courts would require the British attorney general, Patrick Mayhew, to appear as a witness.

“My feelings go deeper than anger,” she told the taoiseach as she also hinted at regret at signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement two years earlier.

“I did not have to sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I could have got by without it. The only thing it has brought me is criticism and bad blood with the Unionists,” she remarked.

Mr Haughey replied: “I am sorry you feel so strongly. I can see you feel anger.” He argued that on security issues Britain was getting more out of the Anglo-Irish Agreement that he had ever thought possible.

The taoiseach cited a recent meeting between the Garda commissioner Eamon Doherty and the RUC chief constable John Hermon, as an example.

Mr Haughey said gardaí had also recently mounted the most massive security operation in the history of the State which had led to the discovery of weapons and a number of escaped prisoners from the Maze as well as two big “dug-outs” which seemed to have been intended to be used to store weapons from the Eksund — a ship carrying arms from Libya that had been intercepted by the French navy in November 1987.

“All that is far more important than the legalities involved in the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. You are getting full co-operation in that area,” said Mr Haughey.

He pointed out that terrorist suspects could no longer use political motivation as an excuse for alleged offences to avoid extradition.

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