More than 4,000 police officers were last night being deployed to protect Margaret Thatcher’s funeral from terrorist threats and violent protest.
The Boston bombings heightened the security alert as the controversial former British leader was being laid to rest.
A ring of steel was being thrown around the heart of the British capital with a massive show of police force along the route of the funeral cortege, and hundreds more riot squad officers waiting in side streets to deal with any incidents.
However, Metropolitan Police’s Commander Christine Jones stressed that peaceful protest against the prime minister who dominated Britain from 1979 to 1990 would be allowed.
“The right to conduct peaceful protest is a tenant of our democracy,” said Jones. “However, that right is qualified in that protest does not stray into acts of crime or violence or the instigation of crime or violence.”
With Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II leading the 2,000 mourners at St Paul’s Cathedral, Scotland Yard has co-ordinated the biggest security clampdown Britain has seen since last summer’s Olympic Games.
Jones said Scotland Yard still reserved the option of arresting people it suspected of preparing to commit crimes at the funeral before the event takes place.
Thatcher’s coffin was moved to a chapel in the Palace of Westminster yesterday and friends and family paid their respects.
As Thatcher’s remains laid in the parliament building, anger over the scale of her funeral arose in the House of Commons as left-wing MP George Galloway forced a debate protesting that the weekly prime minister’s questions had been cancelled due to the official farewell to Thatcher, who he described as “wicked and divisive”.
Controversy was also stoked by reported comments from the dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Dr David Ison — who is to have a key role in the funeral — that Britain has not yet come to terms with the “hurt and anger” Thatcherism caused in parts of the country.
“You have to ask yourself the question: Why it is, 23 years after she left government, Margaret Thatcher is still such a controversial figure, and I think part of the answer is we still haven’t come to terms with the hurt and anger many parts of society have felt because of the legacy of her policies,” The Times reported Ison as telling US news channel CNN.
The estimated £10m (€11.7m) cost of the funeral, which will largely be bourne by taxpayers, has provoked concern in Britain, with Diane Abbott becoming the first member of the opposition Labour front bench to criticise the scale of the event.
Thatcher’s death certificate recorded her occupation as “Stateswoman (retired)”.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved