John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

Header

Thatcher’s Blind Spot

Posted on April 8, 2013
Margaret_Thatcher_01

Thatcher Has a Blind Spot for Ireland



I have never been as big of fan of Maggie Thatcher as other conservatives.

Larry Kudlow called her a champion of freedom.

I suppose that is true in her fight to de-socialize Great Britain.  And on that fight, I agreed with her ideas.

She was a great friend of Ronald Reagan, and she helped us battle the Soviets and win the Cold War.

She thought that Gorbachev was a man we could do business with, and on that one thing, she was right on.

But she was wrong on Ireland.  Dead wrong.  And she made the Troubles worse with her unwillingness to compromise.

She was Unionist at heart and she had no intention of ever combatting rampant anti-Catholic discrimination in Ulster or of doing anything to allow for power-sharing in that Ireland.

The British legacy in Ireland is shameful.  Their history of treating the Irish Catholics in the whole of Ireland but especially in the 6 counties in the North is horrific.

They were complicit in the Potato famine, which cause millions of Irish to starve to death.  For a hundred years, they wouldn’t allow the Irish to practice their religion in freedom, they wouldn’t allow the Irish to speak their native language, they wouldn’t allow them to have good jobs.  It was despicable.

Margaret Thatcher pined for the days when the English had dominion over the Irish.  She was a colonialist at heart, and she could never understand why the Irish despised her so much.

It was her intractability that caused ten Irish hunger strikers to die.  That was on her watch.  It was her policies that treated Irish prisoners of war like scum.

Her inflexibility radicalized a whole population and made it even harder to get a Peace Agreement.

Sure, she ended up signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which helped create a framework for the later peace agreements, but in her memoirs, she called that agreement a mistake.

The Iron Lady view of Ireland was that it should be beat down with an Iron Fist.

Some might admire that, but it was a policy disaster.

I went to college in Ireland in 1985 and 1987, and I remember traveling in the Bogside in Derry and seeing the British troops patrolling the streets.  I remember seeing the vast differences in living conditions between the Catholics and the Protestants.  I also remember seeing how the “Troubles” up North infected the economy down South in the Republic, and how terrible the economy was in the unoccupied part of Ireland.

Thatcher was a fierce opponent of European integration.  She wanted to keep Great Britain separate from the rest of Europe, and I suppose that made some sense for the English.  But the European Union was a God-send to the Republic of Ireland.   The EU made investments in Ireland that Great Britain wouldn’t or couldn’t make.

Today, the Irish leaders are being suitably cautious in their comments about the Iron Lady.  That makes sense because they don’t want to offend anybody back here.

Maggie Thatcher did some great things, but she had a huge blind spot and that blind spot was Ireland.   She was bad on Ireland.  Very bad.  And for those of us who love Ireland, that is not an insubstantial blot on her record.