Belfast Telegraph

State Papers: Margaret Thatcher outburst: ‘Where are the Irish living? They are going back to the Black and Tans... or is it 400 years ago?'

Day Margaret Thatcher read riot act to Charlie Haughey as extradition row poisoned relations between London and Dublin weeks after Enniskillen Poppy Day bombing

By Ralph Riegel

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher subjected Taoiseach Charles Haughey to a furious tirade where she said she was "upset" and "very angry" over Irish moves on extradition.

Secret files from 1987 revealed Mrs Thatcher warned the Republic's premier that her feelings "go deeper than anger" over an extradition stand-off.

Speaking at a Christmas meeting in Denmark, weeks after the Enniskillen bombing, the Prime Minister claimed that some Irish were acting as if Ango-Irish relations were back to the era of the Black & Tans, or even centuries earlier.

A top secret summary of the December 4 and 5 meeting in Copenhagen, on the fringes of an EU summit, is contained in a file from the Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs file for 1987.

It is among a batch of previously classified papers released by the National Archives in Dublin today.

Thatcher was so enraged over the extradition controversy that she reminded the Taoiseach that she did not have to sign the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement but had done so because she wanted to help resolve the Northern Ireland situation.

Under the Republic's new Extradition Act, Britain would not only have to give a written indication of an intent to prosecute a suspect, but would also have to offer a written summary of the prosecution evidence involved.

Without both requirements being met, Irish courts would not be able to extradite a suspect to the UK.

However, British legal officials warned the summary of prosecution evidence was impossible to provide - and raised concerns that British prosecution lawyers may ultimately have to offer evidence at Irish courts.

"I am extremely upset by your moves on extradition," Mrs Thatcher warned Mr Haughey. I am very angry about all of this.

"My feelings go deeper than anger.

"I know now from what you told me that you have extreme difficulties with your people, but where are they living?

"They are going back to the Black & Tans... or is it 400 years ago?

"The way they act shows the way an Irish court would behave with our Attorney General (Patrick Mayhew).

"I did not have to sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement - I could have got by without it.

"The only thing it has brought me is criticism and bad blood with the unionists.

"I had thought that if we operated it for a time, we could calm their fears - that has not come about. The nationalists are quite glad about it. I thought we could build on all that."

Mr Haughey tried to calm Mrs Thatcher's fears.

"I am sorry you feel so strongly - I can see you feel anger," he said. However, the Prime Minister immediately interrupted and warned "it is far deeper than that", adding: "It is not anger... the whole thing has suddenly collapsed."

Mr Haughey attempted to explain that the extradition requirements were minimal, but Mrs Thatcher again interjected.

"There is no way you can court-proof what you are doing," she warned.

"One other thing - we are a least-favoured nation."

The Taoiseach took exception to this and insisted: "You are a most-favoured nation."

Clearly recognising Mrs Thatcher's frustrations, Mr Haughey insisted that the issues could be resolved with goodwill on both sides.

He also insisted that the Republic was doing everything possible to crack down on paramilitary violence.

"Keep trying - you are one of the most able politicians," he said. "In the council, you want binding and effective budgetary discipline - apply the same thing here."

But the Prime Minister's exasperation was again clear.

She replied: "Why do I even try? I worked very hard at the Anglo-Irish Agreement - we thought we were getting better security."

Separately, Irish diplomats warned Mr Haughey that Mrs Thatcher feared an IRA assassination of a member of the royal family would derail the Northern Ireland peace process.

The briefing was so secret it had to be hand-delivered from London to Dublin.

Compiled on June 18, a week after Mrs Thatcher's thumping 1987 general election triumph, the briefing highlighted security concerns as the greatest threat to improving Anglo-Irish relations.

It said: "The fear of an assassination of royalty or a Cabinet Secretary remain a source of great concern for the Prime Minister."

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