Margaret Thatcher ruled out joint rule of North with Dublin

Margaret Thatcher said there was “no question” of agreeing to give Dublin joint authority over the running of the North, official files reveal.

The former British prime minister told unionist leaders that the Anglo-Irish Agreement between the British and Irish governments did not threaten UK sovereignty.

Her intervention followed a long-running unionist campaign against the 1985 agreement, which gave the government a consultative role in the North for the first time.

The following year, Mrs Thatcher wrote: “It is expressly stated in the agreement that there is no derogation from the sovereignty of the UK Government, which remains solely responsible for decisions in relation to the affairs of Northern Ireland.

“There is consequently no question of ’joint authority’, nor does the agreement in any way threaten the union; I should not have been a party to it if it did.

“On the contrary, the guarantee of successive UK governments and parliaments that the status of Northern Ireland cannot and will not be changed without the consent of a majority of the people in Northern Ireland is explicitly recognised and accepted by the Government of the Republic.”

Mrs Thatcher signed the agreement with taoiseach Garret FitzGerald at Hillsborough. It prompted widespread unionist protests including the collapse of the Stormont Assembly and a huge ‘Ulster says No’ rally at Belfast City Hall led by former Ulster Unionist Party head Jim Molyneaux and DUP leader Ian Paisley.

In March 1986, Mrs Thatcher wrote to the leaders: “One of those principles is surely the acceptance of the sovereign authority of the UK Parliament; indeed this must be a corollary of your rejection, which I share, of any dilution of that authority.”

British government files from 1987 also said using Irish for official business in the North could lead to “rabidly” polarised communities.

The Northern Ireland Office warned against sentimentalising the value of the language and culture in a confidential briefing note between officials. In recent years, Irish language publications have been routinely produced by some Stormont departments.


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