Belfast Telegraph

Coulter turned down OBE over Thatcher

Declined: Phil Coulter turned down an OBE
Declined: Phil Coulter turned down an OBE
Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

Londonderry singer-songwriter Phil Coulter has revealed that he turned down an OBE due to his personal feelings towards former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The 77-year-old explained that he would not have felt "comfortable" accepting the honour due to Mrs Thatcher's handling of the 1981 hunger strikes and the miners' strike in 1984/85.

Speaking on RTE's Late Late Show, Mr Coulter said he received a letter from 10 Downing Street in the 1980s stating that the Prime Minister wanted to recommend him to the Queen for an OBE and asking him if he would accept it.

He said: "There was one part of my ego that was flattered to have been offered an honour but deep down in my heart's core I thought this doesn't sit comfortably with me given my background.

"Given the fact that back then Maggie Thatcher would not have been my favourite politician, given the way she had reacted through the hunger strikes, the way she had treated the miners during the strike.

"I thought for me to accept an honour from this woman would somehow be tantamount to me saying she's okay by me, I'm on her team and I wasn't. So I thought, you know what? My ego is in good enough shape so I don't need this OBE so I apologised and declined."

Ten republican prisoners died during the 1981 hunger strike.

Mrs Thatcher's response turned her into a hate figure for many in the nationalist community. She was typically unyielding, stating there would be no concessions or reform of the prison system until the hunger strike ended.

Her handling of the miners' strike - lasting from March 1984 to March 1985 - was also controversial.

At times it seemed a battle of wills between the Barnsley-born leader of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Arthur Scargill, and Mrs Thatcher.

Coulter has received five Ivor Novello Awards in the course of his long career and among his many hits, he wrote the UK's winning Eurovision entry, Puppet on a String, in 1967,

Other celebrities who have turned down honours from the Queen include David Bowie and John Cleese.

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