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'My feelings go deeper than anger': Thatcher lambasted Haughey during aftermath of Enniskillen bomb

Details of the row about extradition procedures have been revealed in freshly released state papers.

Margaret Thatcher and Charlie Haughey.
Margaret Thatcher and Charlie Haughey.
Image: DPA/PA Images

TAOISEACH CHARLIE HAUGHEY was on the receiving end of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s ill temper during a diplomatic squabble about extradition in 1987.

The frank exchange of views took place at a European Council summit in Copenhagen in early December.

The two leaders had famously hot-and-cold interactions and relations between the two governments had been uneasy in the aftermath of the Enniskillen bombing less than a month earlier.

The IRA attack took place on Remembrance Sunday and it saw 11 people killed and 63 others injured.

The bombing ratcheted up the pressure on the Irish government to pass the Extradition Act which would make it easier to extradite IRA suspects from the Republic of Ireland to the United Kingdom.

PA-1003267 A community centre lying in ruins after the IRA bombing in Enniskillen. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

At Prime Minister’s Questions on 1 December, just days before travelling to Copenhagen, Thatcher expressed concern about changes to extradition procedures between the UK and Ireland which saw the Irish Attorney General playing a more significant role in the process.

“What the Republic is doing in taking these steps is making us the least favoured nation in this matter,” Thatcher told the house.

When the leaders came face to face Thatcher wasted no time laying out her grievances with Haughey.

“I am extremely upset by your moves on extradition. They are a step backwards. We have been working on a system for 20 years or more and here now I find that it is changed without consultation,” she said.

Thatcher in Enniskillen. Margaret Thatcher at an Enniskillen Rememberance Service. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Thatcher went on to express the frustrations of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, Patrick Mayhew, who was upset that extradition cases kept getting thrown out of Irish courts for “frivolous reasons”.

The Prime Minister claimed that one case was thrown out because the documents were not stapled together.

I am very angry about all this. My feelings go deeper than anger. He tells me there may never be another extradition case again.

The British leader also vented her frustration that the Anglo-Irish Agreement had failed to quell violence in Northern Ireland.

“They are going back to the Black and Tans – or is it 400 years ago?” she said, adding that all the agreement had brought her was criticism and “bad blood with the Unionists”.

Haughey attempted to placate his counterpart by highlighting the improvements that came about following the agreement and by mentioning recent successful security operations against the IRA.

Source: Eamonn Farrell

He also sought to lay the blame for the extradition situation at the door of his predecessor, Dr Garret FitzGerald.

“If Garret FitzGerald had put through his legislation 12 months ago things would have been easier. There was a 12 months delay when I came in,” Haughey explained.

The Taoiseach tried to allay Thatcher’s fears that the British Attorney General would be brought before an Irish court to execute an extradition order.

The only person involved, if he is to be involved at all, is the Irish Attorney General, not the British Attorney General. We are very conscious of the dignity, status and susceptibilities of the British Attorney General.

The frank exchange continued with Thatcher conveying her unhappiness with how the Irish system works and their failure to back British warrants.

“Why do I even try!” she exclaimed, prompting Haughey to describe her as “one of the most able politicians” and imploring her to “keep trying”.

Perhaps these platitudes left an impression as the notes from the Department of the Taoiseach say that after the tense extradition conversation concluded the two leaders had a general discussion which was “notably more friendly and relaxed”.

READ: Charles Haughey asked Britain not to fly three IRA bodies through Dublin in 1988>

READ: ‘Ireland’s Watergate’: How the phone tapping scandal would lead to Haughey’s downfall… eventually >

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Ceimin Burke

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