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1981 May 28 Th
Margaret Thatcher

TV Interview for ITN (Ulster visit)

Document type: speeches
Document kind: TV Interview
Venue: Belfast
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Jeremy Hands, ITN
Editorial comments: Exact time and place of interview unknown, but after MT’s lunchtime speech at Stormont Castle.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 665
Themes: Local elections, Law & order, Northern Ireland, Terrorism

Interviewer

Mrs. Thatcher, your speech makes it very clear that there is going to be no relenting or compromise regarding the hunger strike. Is that really the case?

Prime Minister

You can't compromise with violence, ever. You have to beat it.

Interviewer

You also suggested that this might be the last card of the IRA. Do you think that that is the way they see it too?

PM

I think they realise that all the population of Northern Ireland is fed up with violence and have rejected it. And therefore they have tried to turn the violence on some of their own people to see if starving them unto death can in fact try to get the kind of sympathy from some of the population. I do not believe they will succeed.

Interviewer

But since the death of Bobby Sands there have been more than twenty people who have died through violence. Do you have any plans at all that you think could persuade these men to end their fast?

PM

Our security forces—both the Army and the Police—have been magnificent in impartially upholding the law. I think they have gained the respect of all people for doing it. The fast could be ended at any time and I would welcome it. I don't wish a single person to die that way. It could be ended any time by those who are in charge saying ‘Look, enough’. It is up to them. I am not going to compromise with what is right. They want political status. That is to say they want to be treated differently from other prisoners. That they can never have. Murder is murder—whatever the motive. There can be no compromise for that and if there were I should be putting the lives of hundreds and thousands of men, women and children at stake. It is for them to end it. It is they who are being inflexible, intransigent, coldy, brutally cynical in the way they are carrying it out. [end p1]

Interviewer

It could be said that the Government is also being inflexible in taking a line and not budging from it by one inch.

PM

In upholding the rule of law, in defending people impartially, in standing out against violence, I am inflexible. Remember that is the same thing as saying “I am resolute” .

Interviewer

Now there seems to have been a polarisation of the two communities as seen in the recent Elections. They have gone to the extremes. Does this worry you at all?

PM

We have to live, we have to get through tomorrow, next week and the next month. What has happened is that many people have chosen to put up for the local councils, people from a number of parties have succeeded. Let us hope they will choose the way of democracy which is the way they have taken by virtue of putting up for the councils. Let us hope it means that they reject force and violence and they choose the way of the ballot box. If that is so it will be a great advance.

Interviewer

Certainly, though, with the rise of the DUP as opposed to the official Unionists in the Elections, they have done much better than they have in the past. Do you think this is going to make any further meetings you have with Mr. Haughey or whoever happens to be the Irish Premier?

PM

It is not for me to say who the people of Northern Ireland should choose. That is a matter for them. It is for me to say the Government will uphold the law and will continue to do so. The Government will give a guarantee to the majority of people in Northern Ireland that the constitutional status of Northern Ireland shall not change unless the majority of the people wish it. It is also for Government to say ‘look, we have to try to live at peace with our neighbours and co-operate with them’. That is in the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland and on those three things we will continue to do the very best we can for all the people here.

Interviewer

Mrs. Thatcher, thank you very much.