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Haughey sought military advice on a common defence plan for Ireland and the UK

State Papers show he planned to ‘bait’ Margaret Thatcher into talks on reunification using the plan.

Dublin Castle Summit between British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Taoiseach Charles Haughey in 1980.
Dublin Castle Summit between British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Taoiseach Charles Haughey in 1980.
Image: Brian Farrell/Photocall Ireland

FORMER TAOISEACH CHARLES Haughey sought military advice on a ‘common defence’ plan between Ireland and the United Kingdom, documents published under the 30 Year Rule have confirmed.

The plan, to be tabled during talks with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to give a new dimension to the “Irish Question”, had previously been hinted at by the Taoiseach ahead of this meeting.

Confidential papers detailing meetings between the two leaders state that Haughey was prepared to speak with Thatcher in private on the matter, and referred to the common defence plan as partly a way of ‘baiting’ the PM into discussing the possibility of Irish reunification.

This plan was seen as forming part of a potential ”settlement package”.

The notes state that it was ‘unclear’ as to what extent it was eventually discussed, although shed some light on thinking behind the plan:

Of course this was in part a ‘bait’ to attract the interest of someone known to be concerned about ‘Western defence and therefore likely to be worried about ‘gaps’ in those defences which a neutral or quasi-neutral might be thought to represent.

In 1980, Haughey also publicly hinted at this plan by saying that ‘joint studies have been covering a range of issues including security measures [between these islands]‘ had been commissioned.

Speculation in the media that this route was being considered is said to have caused heated debate  in the Dáil, although the issue of defence was dismissed by Thatcher as “not a bilateral matter”.

Previous defensive pacts like this were envisioned in the past, such as Plan W which would have seen Irish and UK military forces working together in the event of a German invasion of Ireland during World War II under Operation Green.

Read: 6 key moments that defined Margaret Thatcher’s relationship with Ireland >

More: Is Ireland part of the British Isles?

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Nicky Ryan

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