Margaret Thatcher believed that the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement gave the Irish government all the glory and none of the problems
The British Prime Minister told this to her co-signatory the then Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald two weeks after signing.
The British and Irish heads of government broke off from a European summit in Luxembourg to discuss how best to respond to intense Unionist opposition to the Agreement, which, for the first time, gave Ireland an important consultative role in how London ran Northern Ireland.
During the half-hour meeting in the Kirchberg building in Luxembourg on 3 December 1985, Mrs Thatcher expressed anxiety that she had betrayed her own instinctively Unionist loyalties and obligations.
“I am very worried about developments. You have all the glory. We have all the problems,” she told the Taoiseach.
The documents released by Ireland’s National Archives in Dublin under the 30-year rule reveal Dr. FitzGerald urged her to keep faith with the treaty, despite much greater Unionist opposition than originally expected from then UUP leader Jim Molyneaux and DUP leader Ian Paisley. Mrs. Thatcher had also been personally affected by the resignation of her parliamentary private secretary, Ian Gow MP – who was murdered by the IRA at his home in Eastbourne five years alter.
Mrs Thatcher said she needed evidence of stronger security cooperation on the Irish side of the border which she could offer as a quid pro quo.
“I am deeply upset about the betrayal charges,” Mrs Thatcher said.
“The trouble is they will hear only what they want to hear. There is no good saying things in an English voice. Irish voices must come in and help.
“The Unionists are saying that there are no visible results. I have been only too relieved that they reacted constitutionally. There have been no strikes and no bombs,” she is reported as having said.+3
Dr FitzGerald urged her not to be deflected by threats but to focus on possible solutions.
“The Unionist reaction is very much more serious than I had thought,” Mrs Thatcher said. “I have been told: you are treacherous, you have betrayed us, etc. I have got to reassure the Unionists and fast.”
Dr FitzGerald asked about the possibility of early release and remission for Republican prisoners in the if a few months of relative peace followed the signing of the treaty but Mrs Thatcher was adamantly opposed: “That would be dynamite — no, not dynamite, nuclear. We could not think of relief for people guilty of bombing, or murder and other atrocities.”
The FitzGerald papers also reveal that the Taoiseach and former Irish Foreign Minister had come to the conclusion that he would some day be able to do business with the Tory leader when he had met her in the House of Commons when she was still just leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
Documents detailing a meeting with the SDLP’s John Hume, Seamus Mallon, Joe Hendron and Eddie McGrady record how he told them “it had been clear to him that if he could turn her”, she had the qualities necessary to do something serious about the North and bring the Tory party with her. That Commons meeting made up his mind to make a major effort to get her on his side.