Thatcher reassures Dublin
By Julian Haviland
Mrs Margaret Thatcher, in a letter to a senior Conservative MP, has gone out of her way to reassure political opinion in the Irish Republic by finding merit in the report last year of the New Ireland Forum.
The Prime Minister's dismissal last November of the forum's findings, after her meeting at Chequers with Dr Garret FitzGerald, the republic's Prime Minister, caused considerable bad feeling between London and Dublin. Dr FitzGerald was reported to have described as “gratuitously offensive” remarks made by Mrs Thatcher.
Now, in a letter to Mr Michael Mates, MP for East Hampshire and chairman of the all-party Anglo-Irish parliamentary group at Westminster, Mrs Thatcher has described the forum report as “a useful and worthwhile stimulus” to the dialogue between the two governments, a dialogue which both Dr FitzGerald and she wished to continue.
Although there were real difficulties about parts of the report, there was “much in the report's statement of principles and recognition of realities with which we would sympathize and agree: its unambiguous condemnation of violence; its declared willingness to consider other views; its recognition of the separate identity of the Unionist people of Northern Ireland; and its repeated references to the principle of consent.”