Friday, April 12, 2013

Slow Learners

The DUP's Nigel Dodds offering thoughts on Maggie Thatcher's role in Northern Ireland during the extended House of Commons session on her legacy on Wednesday --

On Northern Ireland, again, she was full of contradictions. We in the Democratic Unionist party, and indeed the entire Unionist community in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, opposed the Anglo-Irish agreement, and many Conservative Members and others opposed it too. Once she had said that Ulster was as British as Finchley; once she had said, rightly, that it was “out, out, out” to a united Ireland, a federal Ireland or joint authority. Yet a year later, in 1985, she signed the Anglo-Irish agreement without any consultation with the Unionist community, and without its consent. The reason why many Unionists felt and spoke so strongly at that time, and why there remain many strong feelings about that era, is that they remembered her strong stance during the hunger strikes, when she had stood up in defence of democracy and against terrorism; they remembered how, as the Prime Minister and others mentioned, she had suffered the loss of close colleagues to terrorism; and they remembered how she herself, just a year before, had survived an IRA assassination attempt. Despite that, she was persuaded to the sign the Anglo-Irish agreement. 

I am glad that in her later life, Margaret Thatcher came to recognise that the agreement was a mistake. Lord Powell, her former close adviser, said the other night on “Newsnight” that, as it is said of Mary Queen of Scots that the word “Calais” was inscribed on her heart, so he believed that the words “the Anglo-Irish agreement” would be inscribed on the heart of Margaret Thatcher, because she had become increasingly disillusioned with it. People say, “But was it not the template for what we now have in Ulster?” I say it was not, because we cannot base a future on exclusion. I say that as a Unionist in Northern Ireland, with all our history, because we must go forward with the inclusion of all communities. Today, there is little of the Anglo-Irish agreement left and instead we have a settlement that has been consulted on and has the consent and agreement of both communities in Northern Ireland. I am glad that we have that, as opposed to the previous approach.

Note his complaint that the Agreement overrode the Unionist veto and constituted the first direct deal between the UK and the Republic of Ireland about Northern Ireland since partition, whereas the Good Friday Agreement had Unionist consent.

That's not exactly what the contemporaneous reactions to the respective agreements would have led you to understand about their properties. Fianna Fail -- "the Republican Party" -- opposed the Anglo-Irish Agreement but negotiated GFA.