Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Measured praise after Thatcher dies

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher has died following a stroke

Irish public and political figures, historically more often at odds with Margaret Thatcher's policies, have remembered her for her leadership and conviction-driven career.

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins said Mrs Thatcher's place in history has been secured.

"She will be remembered as one of the most conviction-driven British prime ministers who drew on a scholarship that demanded markets without regulation," Mr Higgins said.

"The policies of Mrs Thatcher's government in regard to Northern Ireland gave rise to considerable debate at the time. However, her key role in signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement will be recalled as a valuable early contribution to the search for peace and political stability."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny described Mrs Thatcher as a formidable leader.

"Mrs Thatcher was a formidable political leader who had a significant impact on British, European and world politics. During her 11 years as prime minister, she defined an era in British public life," he said.

"While her period of office came at a challenging time for British-Irish relations, when the violent conflict in Northern Ireland was at its peak, Mrs Thatcher signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement which laid the foundation for improved North-South cooperation and ultimately the Good Friday Agreement."

Micheal Martin, leader of main opposition party Fianna Fail, called for a balanced account of her approach to Irish affairs.

But he also remarked that it was "unfortunate" that Mrs Thatcher took such a hardline with republicans.

"While I or the Fianna Fail party would have had little in common with the politics of Mrs Thatcher, it would be wrong not to acknowledge that the long journey towards the peace and respect that we enjoy between Britain and Ireland today, took its first faltering steps in the bilateral discussions between Mrs Thatcher and former taoiseach Charles Haughey," he said.

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