State papers for 1986
Sir, – Yes, those of us old enough to remember Ireland in 1986 remember only too well the stagnant economy, the difficulty of paying our bills and the loss of friends to emigration caused mainly by the economic pressure to which Ciaran O’Mara refers (January 9th).
However, to assume as Mr O’Mara infers, that there was no connection between those issues and the tireless work to which Garret FitzGerald devoted himself on Northern Ireland affairs, is to overlook, for example, the constant drain on economic resources and on government time of ensuring the security of the state. It will also be recalled that his government’s efforts to achieve the peace agreements now in place were opposed and undermined at every opportunity by an opportunist opposition. As for the first divorce referendum, it was an important step towards the more open society to which Dr FitzGerald aspired and was met with deep hostility both by the official church authorities and various para-clerical groupings and institutes. For those affected directly by the issue – and for many who simply aspired to a more open, secular Ireland – it was a very real and pressing issue.
FitzGerald’s efforts laid the foundation for much of the progress made by his successors on peace in Northern Ireland and on bringing about a less sectarian state for which most of us are grateful. On this basis, the material chosen by your researchers doesn’t seem far off the mark in terms of its importance. – Yours, etc,