Iron Lady: judge by results not style

With the passing of the Iron Lady, the Anglo-Irish Agreement 1985 is seen by many as a breakthrough.

The reality on the ground was far removed and the signing of the agreement was a death warrant for many in Northern Ireland within opposing factions.

It was an attempt to calm relations and it backfired disastrously. Why do so many foolishly think it was the start of the peace process? To many Unionists it was — and still is — an unwelcome start of the hollowing out of the Union.

The peace process that we now know began with the Downing Street Declaration 1993 and proceeded from there. The Anglo-Irish Agreement sparked very serious violence in Northern Ireland and was too much of a step to take for Unionists and Loyalists at the time. It was a serious miscalculation by the Irish, and critically the British government who were in the driving seat.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement was a bad agreement and it is almost certainly the case that Republicans were not happy with it either, even though it gave an official role to the Irish government in the affairs of Northern Ireland.

There were many regrets after its signing and a sinking feeling that those in power were losing control and were out of touch with what was happening on the ground. There probably was no proper consultation with Unionists and all concerned as would be demanded now, where direct rule was a little too direct for many unionists.

The signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement was a dreadful political and public relations exercise that represented the highest degree of political failure and stupidity. Margaret Thatcher’s legacy in Northern was very poor in contrast to her successor John Major, who had a better approach to the difficulties.

The Iron Lady’s reign was more about over-powering charisma than one of political talent ... that is why we should perhaps always judge by results and not by style.

Maurice Fitzgerald


Co Cork

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