Joint Written Statement after Anglo-Irish talks
|Document kind:||Written Statement|
|Venue:||No.10 Downing Street|
|Source:||The Times , 22 May 1980|
|Editorial comments:||The talks concluded at 1630. Prime Minister Haughey had arrived for lunch at 1300. The full statement has not been traced. This was the occasion on which the Taoiseach presented MT with a Georgian silver teapot. Exceeding the limits set down for private gifts, it remains in the collection of the British Government.|
Mr Haughey exults at closer cooperation
Mr Charles Haughey, the Irish Prime Minister, came away from his meeting with Mrs Margaret Thatcher yesterday afternoon exulting over the “new and closer cooperation” they had agreed.
But at the same time he seized an opportunity during an Irish Embassy news conference, which was televised live to Ireland, to urge the British Government to drop its “guarantee” to the Ulster majority and instead persuade them of the advantages of “a new arrangement” in running Ireland together.
For his part and as a start, Mr Haughey said he was going home prepared to tell his Cabinet that British subjects living in the Republic be given the same rights to vote in Irish elections as the Irish had to vote in British elections.
He did not stop there. Mr Haughey also gave public warning that if the forthcoming British Ulster devolution proposals were cast entirely in an Ulster context then “they were doomed to failure”.
Asked if he thought yesterday's Downing Street exchanges might influence the British Government's pending proposals on Ulster Mr Haughey said he hoped Mrs Thatcher and her ministers would now have “a much better understanding” of the Dublin government's view of it. Mr Haughey indicated this meant there ought to be Dublin involvement.
That was the closest either side came to confirming what had passed between the two prime ministers in their 45-minute meeting without advisers. On the British side nothing was said for the record beyond the communiqué; but in Whitehall it was implied that the communiqués report of “a useful and constructive exchange of views about the prospects for political progress in Northern Ireland” had been entirely confined to that tête-à-tête.
On the British side it was ventured that the meetings had been friendly, businesslike and constructive. They included a luncheon, a session attended by ministers, and a separate meeting between Mr Humphrey Atkins, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Mr Brian Lenihan, the Irish Foreign Minister.
British sources agreed that a good personal relationship had been struck between the two prime ministers. They were now to hold regular meetings for the first time.
But Mr Haughey, while meticulously observing the confidentiality of the meeting, trumped all that by his bold performance. He said it was the most successful meeting he had had with any politician before an international news conference.
Much turned on this phrase in the communiqué: “While agreeing with the Prime Minister that any change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland the Taoiseach reaffirmed that it is the wish of the Irish Government to secure the unity of Ireland by agreement and in peace.”
Did not that amount to his acquiescence in the British guarantee? he was asked. He thought not. The way Unionists interpreted it, he said, was that there could be no political progress unless they agreed to it first.
From the British point of view the two governments seem as far apart on Ulster's future as they did under the previous government of Mr Jack Lynch, although this is not seen as any bar to a good relationship.
However, whether the Government appreciates Mr Haughey's public expression of his united Ireland cause in London, with the implication that he had put it all to Mrs Thatcher, is another matter.
On the British side last night there was sensitive insistence that Mrs Thatcher had not gone back on her Commons assurance of Tuesday that the future of Northern Ireland was for “no one else” outside the United Kingdom.