Declassified files: Thatcher said An Garda Síochána not a highly professional force

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher claimed the Irish police were not a “highly professional police force” and that she had “failed” in a row over the border, Dublin state papers have revealed.

Minutes of the “unusually intense” meeting the PM had with Taoiseach Charles Haughey in June of 1988 showed Mrs Thatcher was deeply angry at what she perceived as lack of co-operation from the Irish state and its police in the fight against cross-border terrorism.

The two leaders met on the fringes of a European summit in Hanover where Mrs Thatcher warned the Taoiseach: “We can’t have the border open as it is now. There are massive caches of arms somewhere.

“We know that there are arms and weapons and we know that they bring them across.

“We do not get intelligence from the Gardai, they are not the most highly professional police force.”

The Taoiseach rebuked Mrs Thatcher saying the Irish government was “constantly ballyragged” by the British and received “no credit” for the work they had been doing.

“There were 147 punishment shootings in Northern Ireland in a recent period,” he said.

“You had Lisburn. You had Enniskillen. These are not failures of our making. These are things that happen within Northern Ireland where your security forces operate. There is no way we can patrol 500 miles,” he added.

Mrs Thatcher, who became increasingly exasperated during the meeting added: “I don’t know what to do about the border.”

She went on to say she was disappointed in the SDLP and John Hume: “They have the gift of the gab, but no, they won’t talk to their people and tell them to join the RUC. So I have failed. When the troops went to Northern Ireland, they were welcome. It has all been so useless..."