“Margaret Thatcher was the first (and only) woman to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,” said Kinealy. “While many in the world will mourn her for her strong, uncompromising style of leadership, her legacy at home, especially in Ireland, remains controversial.
“Shortly before coming to office, her friend and political mentor, Airey Neave, was killed by an IRA (Provisional Irish Republican Army) bomb. His death inevitably influenced her views of the conflict in Northern Ireland. She believed (wrongly, as subsequent events showed) that peace could only be achieved through a military defeat of the IRA.
“Thatcher’s opportunity to make a stand against Irish republicans came in 1981, when a number of prisoners went on hunger strike in order to achieve political status. The Prime Minister refused to negotiate or compromise on this issue, even though one of the hunger strikers, Bobby Sands, had been elected to the British parliament. As a consequence, 10 young republican prisoners died. Their deaths cast a long shadow over republican and nationalist views of Thatcher. In 1984, Republicans bombed a hotel in which Thatcher was staying; four died but she emerged unscathed.
“Ironically, Thatcher also alienated her Unionist allies in Ireland, through the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985. Again, she demonstrated her refusal to bow down to public pressure or opinion. When challenged, Thatcher insisted that Northern Ireland was as British as Finchley (a district of London).
“In the end, Thatcher’s uncompromising style alienated people in her own Conservative Party and they ousted her from power in 1990. She had been prime minister for eleven years. As news of 87 year-old Margret Thatcher’s death spreads in Ireland, many will also be thinking of the many lives lost during the ‘Troubles,’ on all sides of the political divide, and asking, ‘why?’”
To speak to Kinealy, please call John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations at Quinnipiac, at 203-206-4449 (cell).