Powell right - Thatcher


London - Lady Thatcher today admits that Enoch Powell was right to oppose the Anglo-Irish Agreement which gave Dublin a formal say in the running of Northern Ireland for the first time. In a review of a biography of Powell in the Daily Telegraph, Lady Thatcher reveals her second thoughts about the deal which she signed with the then-Taoiseach, Dr Garret FitzGerald, at Hillsborough in 1985.

Ulster Unionists condemned the agreement as a betrayal and the first step towards a united Ireland. Powell was then an Ulster Unionist MP, having quit the Tories over Europe in 1974. He said the accord resulted in an unprecedented arrangement granting foreign ministers oversight of part of the United Kingdom. In a bitter exchange with her in the Commons the day before it was signed, he accused her of "treachery".

In her review of Simon Heffer's biography, Lady Thatcher writes of Powell's objection to the accord: "I now believe that his assessment was right, though I wish that on this as on other occasions he had been less inclined to impugn the motives of those who disagreed with him."

She says that "Powellism" helped to create "Thatcherism" and says she is glad that during her last period in office and afterwards they became closer again.

Lady Thatcher discloses that she believed Sir Edward Heath should not have sacked Powell, who died in February, from the Conservative shadow cabinet in 1968 for his "rivers of blood" speech. "I told Ted then that I thought it best just to let things cool down and that it would be unwise to dismiss someone like Enoch. Looking back, I can see that it was not just unwise, it was disastrous."