Belfast Telegraph

Thatcher 'was devastated' by IRA killings of her associates

Ian Gow MP with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Ian Gow MP with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

A new biography of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher details how she was deeply affected after republican terrorists murdered two of her close associates.

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume Three: Herself Alone, recalls Mrs Thatcher's shock at the deaths of Ian Gow and Airey Neave.

The book by Charles Moore, which is released later this week, has been serialised by The Daily Telegraph. It includes sections charting her relationship with husband Denis, and key milestones in the Iron Lady's lifetime.

In July 1990, Mrs Thatcher suffered a deep personal blow when Mr Gow, one of her closest friends in politics, was murdered by the IRA.

Mr Gow, a solicitor as well as a Conservative MP, was blown up by a bomb planted underneath his vehicle.

It exploded as he reversed his car out of the drive of his house in the Sussex village of Hankham.

Charles Powell, the closest of all Mrs Thatcher's private secretaries, said it was the only time he saw her completely break down after he broke the news. In killing Mr Gow, the IRA was seeking to punish him for his Ulster Unionism, which had caused him to resign from the government over the Anglo-Irish Agreement, but also for his closeness to her.

In a handwritten letter to his wife Jane, the PM, who was badly affected by Mr Gow's murder, wrote: "I shall miss him so very much.

"True friends who believe the same things, think the same way, love the life of Parliament, regard it as the highest duty to serve and who are loyal whatever the weather - are rare indeed."

Eleven years earlier, in March 1979, Mrs Thatcher had suffered the loss of Airey Neave, the politician she had chosen to be her man in Northern Ireland.

Mr Neave was killed by an INLA car bomb as he drove out of the House of Commons car park.

The deaths of Mr Neave and Mr Gow emphasised the grimness of Mrs Thatcher's fight against terrorism and also added to her isolation in office.

In the by-election following Mr Gow's death, the Conservatives lost the seat to the Liberal Democrats.

Four days later, deputy Prime Minister Geoffrey Howe delivered the eulogy at Mr Gow's memorial service. His delivery was criticised by Mrs Thatcher.

She told him: "Why don't you speak up, Geoffrey?

"You mumble."

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