US influence and Northern Ireland

 

A chara, – I was surprised to read in Niall O’Dowd’s article “We need a US envoy to the North more than ever” (Opinion & Analysis, September 2nd) that in 1985 the only evidence he could find in the US state department for the interest of the US government in Northern Ireland was a few clippings from British newspapers kept by a junior official.

The year 1985 was the one in which President Ronald Reagan intervened several times with Mrs Thatcher in helping to persuade her to sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement of November that year – against her own anti-Irish instincts. Reagan did so in response to unrelenting pressure from Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, who in turn was responding to the urgings of John Hume and the taoiseach Garret FitzGerald. The agreement gave our government a major role on the ground with the government of Northern Ireland for the first time since partition. I know this because I had the privilege at that time to be part of the team negotiating the Anglo-Irish Agreement with the British government, which is textually preserved in Strand III of the Belfast Agreement.

Without Hume and FitzGerald and our ambassador in Washington, Sean Donlon, this would not have happened.

Later Thatcher somewhat ruefully told her confidant Lord McAlpine that “the Americans made me do it”.

Some press clippings! – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL LILLIS,

Dublin 6.