Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 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
Margaret Thatcher
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
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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