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Thatcher: I fear Ulster will descend into civil war


Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher warned Taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald she feared Northern Ireland descending into civil war and the emergence of a Marxist society.

The warning came as she angrily ruled out any question of joint authority, saying it would never be acceptable to unionists who fought with Britain in World War II, according to Irish State papers from 1984 released today.

The private exchanges between the two leaders - carefully described as "rapid and vigorous" in a secret government memo - saw Mrs Thatcher (below) at one point asking Dr FitzGerald if "the future in the south was as dark as in the north".

A memo written by David Nally of the Department of the Taoiseach set out just how hard-htting the meeting at Chequers was on November 19, 1984.

The media famously reported the meeting as difficult, but the memo reveals it was even tougher.

In a private letter, sent by Dr FitzGerald to a US friend on December 24, he admitted the meeting was "very direct and, at times, difficult".

The meeting took place just over a month after Mrs Thatcher had narrowly escaped being killed by the IRA in Brighton.

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Mrs Thatcher wanted to focus the meeting on security, but Dr FitzGerald insisted a political deal had to be involved.

Mrs Thatcher also queried the demands of nationalists.

"She cited the Macedonians, the Croats, the Serbs and the Sudeten Germans as examples of minorities who were not, as of right, given particular prerogatives," Mr Nally wrote.

She asked why nationalists should have the right to fly the tricolour when Sikhs living in London don't seek to fly their flag.

"There was a real danger that a Marxist society could develop. She did not ever want that to happen. When she looked at the strategic aspects of the problem she understood what the US feels about Nicaragua."

Mrs Thatcher said she couldn't understand why people were objecting to being "frisked" by the RUC and British Army when improved security would ultimately allow them live in peace and safety.

An Irish suggestion that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland worked closely with his Irish counterpart was rejected out of hand.

She said: "The unionists would say that you are giving up your constitutional claim but you are coming across the border and don't really need the claim. That would put us well on the way to civil war."

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