Editorial - Legacy of bitterness

Over the coming days much will be written and said about former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

While her place in the history books is assured, arguments will continue whether it is one of fame or infamy.

Many in the nationalist and republican communities, particularly those who remember her handling of the hunger strikes, will not mourn her.

Unionists memories of Mrs Thatcher will be more complicated. Initially they saw her as a bulwark against republicanism. That changed however with the signing of the Ango Irish Agreement, which gave the Republic a formal role in northern affairs.

That Agreement, far from bringing accord, polarised opinion in the North. Unionists, who had previously supported her through the hunger strikes, now reviled her for allowing what they saw as ‘interference’ from Dublin.

In many ways, her time in office was defined by events in the North. Her political career spanned some of the worst days of the Troubles and her policies, particularly in relation to the hunger strikes and shoot-to-kill policy, fanned the flames of violence.

She famously claimed that the North was as British as Finchley; not only was this not true at the time, but through the Anglo Irish Agreement, she ensured the hollowness of the phrase.

In recent years, particularly since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and the release of political prisoners, her policies have been chipped away leaving only a legacy of bitterness in their place.