Haughey’s stand over Falklands damaged Anglo-Irish relations, says former official

Not his finest hour, Aylward tells Thatcher’s official biographer

Sean Aylward,  former secretary general at the Department of Justice who was Mr Haughey’s private secretary at the time of the Falklands conflict: “Now, I don’t think it was his finest hour… but it did pose policy difficulties.”

Sean Aylward, former secretary general at the Department of Justice who was Mr Haughey’s private secretary at the time of the Falklands conflict: “Now, I don’t think it was his finest hour… but it did pose policy difficulties.”

Thu, Apr 25, 2013, 09:43

Former taoiseach Charles Haughey’s decision to demand an immediate end to hostilities during the Falklands War in 1982 and the withdrawal of EEC economic sanctions against Argentina was not “his finest hour”, according to a former senior Irish official.

The comments are attributed to Sean Aylward, a former secretary general at the Department of Justice who was Mr Haughey’s private secretary at the time of the Falklands conflict, in the authorised biography of Thatcher published this week.

“Now, I don’t think it was his finest hour….but it did pose policy difficulties…because quite simply the Falklands/Malvinas was a classic piece of colonial history [and therefore problematic in Irish politics],” he told the author of the book Charles Moore.

“It was a combination of substantial sympathy in Ireland for the Argentinians and the smouldering resentment of the way in which the Thatcher government had influenced the hunger strikers that influenced our foreign policy at the time,” he said.

“Retrospectively, there is no question that it was a mistake because it simply wasn’t understood in England, and we lost a lot of friends too,” said Aylward.

Moore said Haughey had taken the stand he did “for reasons that seemed quite good internally, but went so deep with her [ Thatcher] that she could never forgive him because the Falklands were everything to her.

“The idea that a supposed friendly country would do these things was appalling in her view.

“The EU – the EEC as it then was – was supportive of Britain, remarkably so actually.

“Haughey tried to lead a pack the other way, and this didn’t stand Ireland in good stead,” he said.

In his book Moore argues that Thatcher “found it extremely hard to take in the idea that citizens of her own country might feel that they owed allegiance to another” and had once said “you don’t expect anything decent to come from an Irishman”.

‘Traitors’
“In private conversation in retirement she once said that nationalists in the North were ‘traitors’ because of their wish for British withdrawal and a united Ireland. Then she stopped herself: ‘No, no, I shouldn’t say that. That is not the right word’.”

Former secretary to the government Dermot Nally, speaking before his death, told Moore that “outbursts” by minister for foreign affairs Brian Lenihan after the 1980 summit “had destroyed her faith” in Haughey.

Thatcher blamed herself after the summit for not understanding “the incendiary implications” of the phrase used in the communiqué published at the end of the summit which spoke “of the totality of relationships within these islands”.