Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1980 Dec 8 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

Radio Interview for IRN (Anglo-Irish Summit)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Radio Interview
Venue: 12? Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Peter Murphy, IRN
Editorial comments: Later afternoon or early evening.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 919
Themes: Law & order, Northern Ireland, Terrorism

3. Peter Murphy IRN 8 Dec 1980

Mr. Murphy

If I can ask you first of all Prime Minister, did the Irish Government seek any changes in your attitude to the hunger strikers?

PM

No. Because our attitude to the hunger strikers are very well known. First, there can be no question of political status, murder is murder and those who wish to take explosives to risk other people's lives are criminals. There is no question of political status. Secondly, before the hunger strike began we had already been considering whether prisoners in Northern Ireland should be allowed to wear civilian clothing, issued by the governor of the prison. And we had agreed before the hunger strike began that they should—it is available to all prisoners. And thirdly, we issued a statement last Thursday setting out all the rights and privileges which are available to prisoners in Northern Ireland, provided they are not on the blanket or the dirty protest, and that is a very impressive list on humanitarian grounds. I think people who saw it for the first time were amazed at how humane and how extensive the list is. And it so happens that a number of things that people have been asking for are already available. So now it is a question of trying to get the message over to those on hunger strike. But all Parties in Northern Ireland have condemned the hunger strike, many parties in Southern Ireland the Church has condemned it. There is no point in carrying on.

Mr. Murphy

Were there any suggestions though put forward by the Irish Government for …

PM

… no new suggestions, no new suggestions. Indeed I think it would be very, very difficult to find any new suggestions bearing in mind that we cannot possibly have political status.

Mr. Murphy

While the strike continues, though, there is a potentially explosive situation in Northern Ireland. Do you have much hope that it might be cooled off before somebody dies? [end p1]

PM

Well, of course, because it is such a waste of lives particularly when a number of things they are demanding are already available to ordinary prisoners in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Murphy

Turning to other matters, you spoke in your joint statement about possible new institutional structures. What exactly did you mean by that?

PM

Nothing more than that. We curiously enough until recently we had closer relationships between the United Kingdom and France, the United Kingdom and Germany and the United Kingdom and Ireland [sic: Italy?] than we had between the United Kingdom and Ireland. In a way you could say that we already have an institutional structure because we now have regular talks with the Republic of Ireland and they come here. But what we are really saying is that there are a number of things we might consider. We already have very good security co-operation. We could consider much greater economic co-operation and energy co-operation and whether because there is a unique relationship between the Republic and the United Kingdom in that we have a land border and there are special citizenship rights and provisions between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. And I understand that Mr. Haughey is considering reciprocal voting rights. Whether it is possible or not to give any institutional expression to that unique relationship, and we shall just have to see whether it is possible or not.

Mr. Murphy

It has been suggested from Dublin that one of the areas to be examined is a possible confederation between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

PM

There is no possibility of a Confederation.

Mr. Murphy

That is a complete red herring.

PM

There is no possibility. [end p2]

Mr. Murphy

The problem of dealing with Northern Ireland and talks with the Southern Irish Government is there always seems to be some misunderstandings afterwards and the Unionists in particular seem worried.

PM

With respect, I don't think there is any misunderstanding between those who took part in our bilateral talks. What happens is that people try to seek meanings to words which aren't there. When you talk about, as we did in this communique, joint studies included possible new institutional structures, citizens rights, security matters, economic co-operation, measures to encourage mutual understanding, don't we want greater mutual understanding, don't we want greater economic co-operation? We are trying to bring an end to violence, we are trying to replace violence with understanding and co-operation. Surely that is the right way to go about it?

Mr. Murphy

Finally, the last proposals for changes in Northern Ireland came to nothing in fact. Have you got any new plans for devolved Government?

PM

No not at the moment. It is not possible to go forward to legislation on the basis of the White Paper in Northern Ireland which the Humphrey AtkinsSecretary of State for Northern Ireland proposed. We have just tried to find new ways of securing greater co-operation and greater understanding between the communities in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Murphy

Thank you very much.