Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Baroness Thatcher's legacy in Northern Ireland was marked by U-turns

A protester wears a mask depicting former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during a party to mark her death in central London's Trafalgar square, Saturday, April 13, 2013
A protester wears a mask depicting former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher during a party to mark her death in central London's Trafalgar square, Saturday, April 13, 2013
Margaret Thatcher
Flowers laid outside the home of Baroness Thatcher in Belgravia, London following her death this morning after a stroke
Margaret Thatcher fielding questions with Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe (background), at a press conference, in London
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI, wearing his Saturn hat, greets former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 27, 2009
File photo dated 11/05/83 of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher receiving Soviet writer Aleksander Solzhenitsyn at No 10 Downing Street, London
File photo dated 24/10/2000 of former Conservative Prime Ministers Sir Edward Heath and Baroness Thatcher check their watches as they listen to the debate at the Conservative Party Conference annual conference in Bournemouth. Baroness Thatcher died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell said
FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. November 1976: Conservative party leader Margaret Thatcher makes a 'victory' sign outside her home in Chelsea, London. (Photo by John Minihan/Evening Standard/Getty Images)
FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street, London, at the start of her third term in office. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
FILE - APRIL 8: Lord Bell, spokesperson for Baroness Margaret Thatcher, announced in a statement that the former British Prime Minister died peacefully following a stroke aged 87. Margaret Hilda Thatcher, nee Roberts, as the Conservative candidate for Dartford, Kent, and before she married husband Denis. (Photo by Chris Ware/Getty Images)
1980: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke.. British Conservative politician and first woman to hold the office of Prime Minister of Great Britain Margaret Thatcher speaks at the Tory Party Conference on in Brighton, East Sussex circa 1980. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
1985: (FILE PHOTO) Baroness Margaret Thatcher, 85, Britain's Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, Reports on April 8, 2013 state that Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke.. Please refer to the following profile on Getty Images Archival for further imagery. http://www.gettyimages.com/Search/Search.aspx?EventId=108930459&EditorialProduct=Archival British prime minister Margaret Thatcher holds a chimpanzee in 1985. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
File photo dated 08/11/05 of Margaret Thatcher at the memorial service for former Conservative Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath, at Westminster Abbey in central London. Baroness Thatcher died this morning following a stroke, her spokesman Lord Bell said
The death of former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher has divided opinion across Northern Ireland
Prime Minister David Cameron pays respects to Margaret Thatcher
Crowds gather in Derry's Bogside to 'celebrate' the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Crowds gather in Derry's Bogside to 'celebrate' the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Crowds gather in Derry's Bogside to 'celebrate' the death of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher
Crowds gather in Derry's Bogside to 'celebrate' the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Crowds gather in Derry's Bogside to 'celebrate' the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
People celebrate the death of Baroness Thatcher in Brixton
People celebrate the death of Baroness Thatcher in Brixton, south London
Meryl Streep has paid tribute to Baroness Thatcher
Geri Halliwell has tweeted about Margaret Thatcher's death
Morrissey has attacked Baroness Thatcher after the former prime minister died
Members of the armed services will line the route of Baroness Thatcher's funeral procession to St Paul's Cathedral
A man lays a bunch of flowers outside the home of Lady Margaret Thatcher in Belgravia, London following her death
Margaret Thatcher pictured with her husband Denis in 1999
Margaret Thatcher waves to well-wishers after her 1983 election win
Margaret Thatcher arrives at 10 Downing Street after winning the 1979 election
The Union Flag is lowered to half mast at the Houses of Parliament after the death of Baroness Thatcher
Baroness Thatcher has died following a stroke
Margaret Thatcher at the Tory Party Conference in Brighton in 1980
Baroness Thatcher's death left some Twitter users with the impression that the singer Cher had died
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher has died following a stroke
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Visit to Northern Ireland. Mrs Thatcher talks to Siobhan O'Hars (left) and Katherine O'Hare during her visit to Rathmore Grammar School, Finaghy. 19/6/1978 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Visit to Northern Ireland. Director of the Belfast Tool and Gauge Company, Mr David Woods (left) discusses the workings of engineering components with Margaret Thatcher and department foreman Mr Robert McCullough at the factory. 6/3/1981 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE

IT will be profitable to remember the late Margaret Thatcher's legacy in Northern Ireland.

Firstly, the lady who claimed she was not for turning immediately did a U-turn on being returned to office in 1979, by reneging on her General Election manifesto commitment "to establish one or more elected regional councils with a wide range of powers over local services".

She chose to convene the Atkins conference, which succeeded in stalling the establishment of a province-wide administrative assembly/regional council championed by then Ulster Unionist leader Jim Molyneaux and the late Airey Neave.

This led to the ill-fated 1982-86 rolling devolution initiative of Jim Prior, the 1990-98 Brooke-Mayhew talks and the eventual establishment of a power-sharing Executive.

It would appear that, for all her purported refusal to surrender to terrorism, in the wake of the IRA bombing of the 1984 Tory conference, she did, indeed, surrender. Just over a year later, she signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The legacy of that continues today, via the institutions of the Good Friday and St Andrews agreements. CHRISTOPHER LUKE

Monday Club Northern Ireland policy committee (1985-1989)

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