Belfast Telegraph

State papers: Taoiseach angers Margaret Thatcher with Anglo-Irish Agreement delay claim

1986 State papers

By Adrian Rutherford

The Irish government accused Britain of failing to deliver on the Anglo-Irish Agreement in angry exchanges between the two countries.

Garret FitzGerald said more visible progress was urgently needed, prompting Margaret Thatcher to question his attitude.

The Taoiseach's warning is contained in a briefing sent to the Prime Minister in June 1986.

It came seven months after the signing of the historic agreement, which granted the Republic a formal role in Northern Ireland for the first time since partition.

The note, marked secret and personal, is an account of a meeting between Cabinet secretary Sir Robert Armstrong and Mr FitzGerald.

Sir Robert describes how he was called aside by the Taoiseach ahead of a meeting.

"The Taoiseach said that he thought the Irish Government could reasonably claim to have delivered on their side of the Anglo-Irish Agreement," he wrote.

The letter, released by the Public Record Office, adds: "The Taoiseach was, however, worried about our side of the affair.

"Unless it was possible to make more visible progress, he feared that he would find it difficult to sustain his position that the Anglo-Irish Agreement had been a move forward entered into in good faith by both sides."

Mr FitzGerald emphasised the need for action on three-judge courts. He also expressed unease that the Irish government had been requested to assist with the Anglo-US supplementary extradition treaty.

The treaty effectively meant that ex-IRA members in the US were not protected from extradition.

In an attached briefing note, Sir Robert advises the PM: "He might be having trouble with some of his 'greener' colleagues in Government, who see the Anglo-Irish Agreement as very much his responsibility and measure his success by the degree of progress in its implementation."

When the paper reached Downing Street, Mrs Thatcher was far from impressed.

A response from her private secretary Charles Powell said the PM was "concerned by his attitude".

He wrote: "It seems to the Prime Minister that the Taoiseach quite fails to realise the difference in scale between the political problems facing our government and his over the Agreement."

Mrs Thatcher, it continued, did not find the Taoiseach's case for three-judge courts "particularly strong".

She also described Mr FitzGerald's comments on extradition as "astonishing".

It added: "[She] resents suggestions that lack of progress with implementing the Agreement can be put down to the United Kingdom's account. She intends to make these points to the Taoiseach when they meet."

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