UK Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe warned Margaret Thatcher in 1984 that if Sinn Féin and the IRA weren’t stopped her fear of a Cuban-style radical government in Dublin could be realised.
It was 1984 and de-classified minutes from the time of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council also show that the Prime Minister was expressing sympathy for Ronald Reagan with regard to Nicaragua.
The Marxist-Leninist candidate Daniel Ortega had just won the 1984 Presidential election in the Central American Republic and Washington was accusing the Sandinista candidate of being a Soviet puppet.
De-classified Government documents newly released by the Government detail correspondence between Dublin and London in advance of the Anglo-Irish summit over November 18 and 19, 1984, as well as details of the meeting itself.
Apparently, the British Ambassador to Ireland, Alan Goodison, told the Prime Minister that the Irish Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald could not “afford to come away from the summit empty-handed.”
According to the documents Mrs Thatcher replied: “That is not my problem.”
Mr Howe perceptively warned there could be no “simple solution to the Irish problem” which would be with us for “many decades yet.”
He also warned the Prime Minister that if republicans continued their advance, her fear of a “radical extremist” Government in Dublin could become a Cuba on her doorstep. At the Anglo-Irish Summit itself Mrs Thatcher stated that the: “IRA did not represent just an Irish dimension, it had a Marxist and an international terrorist dimension grafted onto it and she was beginning to understand what the United States felt about Nicaragua.”
Mr FitzGerald is said to have “reacted strongly” when Mrs Thatcher said the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland had little to complain of under direct rule and accused the Fine Gael leader of wanting to create a “Republican enclave” in Northern Ireland.
Dr FitzGerald is said to have told the Prime Minister that 85,000 Catholic had been driven from their homes in mixed areas into “ghettos” where they were terrorised by the IRA.
The Prime Minister also worried about the IRA infiltrating the RUC if more Catholics were recruited. Dr FitzGerald left the summit “rather depressed,” according to the files.