The Prime Minister has responded to the upsurge of IRA terrorism by making a spur-of-the-moment visit to Northern Ireland. She flew to Belfast this morning with the Secretary of State, Mr Humphrey Atkins, and they'll be returning to London later this afternoon. Mrs Thatcher made up her mind to go last night, after hearing the latest news of Monday's two bomb outrages—the blowing-up of Lord Mountbatten's boat off the west coast of the Irish Republic and the ambush at Warrenpoint in County Down that killed 18 soldiers. The Prime Minister began her visit to Belfast by going to the Musgrave Park Hospital—as we hear from our reporter, Graeme McLagan: [end p1]
Mrs. Thatcher first met civilians at the hospital including four women patients and also a police sergeant who'd lost both legs and his right arm in a car bomb explosion six months ago. She then went to the hospital's military wing and talked to injured soldiers. She was unable to speak to the only two soldiers there injured at Warrenpoint because they're in intensive care. The Northern Ireland Secretary, Humphrey Atkins, was with her and he told me a visit like this had been planned for some time. He thought people here welcomed a visit like this.
Mrs. Thatcher then went to the City Hall and met city officials and Gerry Fitt, one of the two representatives of the minority community at Westminister. He expressed his sympathy to her for what had happened in the last two days. He told us he thought the Irish Prime Minister should have returned from his holiday in Portugal to take charge of the situation in Ireland.
Afterwards, Mrs. Thatcher went on a walkabout in the city centre, a secure zone and was mobbed by people, reporters and cameramen. She made it clear she wanted to speak to the people, not reporters. One woman told her she should take strong action against the I.R.A. Another said she should bring back hanging. Mrs. Thatcher told them she'd bear these thoughts in mind. A young man who shouted, ‘What about the H-blocks?—that's where I.R.A. men are held—was told to shut-up by the crowd. As she left the city centre a middle-aged woman shouted at her that the H-block should be wiped out and that Ireland should be set free. Mrs. Thatcher ignored her and a big cheer went up as she waved to the crowd and stepped into her car. She then drove off for lunch. [end p2]