Socialist Worker

Tories discussed a Berlin-style Belfast divide

Issue No. 2385

In 1984 the IRA blew up a hotel in Brighton hosting Tories staying for their annual conference.

Released documents show that the Tories decided to slow down their rather sluggish commitment to talks with the Irish government over how to resolve the Northern Ireland conflict. 

They feared being seen as soft on terrorism. Thatcher told officials that, “The events of Thursday night at Brighton mean that we must go very slow on these talks if not stop them. It could look as if we were bombed into making concessions to the Republic”.

What Thatcher was actually considering was the repartition of Ireland. The Tories commissioned an academic to come up with three plans to re-divide Ireland. 

All the plans included giving Derry to the Republic and some included dividing Belfast. The idea involved redrawing the border and handing as much of half of the North to the Republic. And the most radical plan would have ceded more than half the area of Northern Ireland to the Republic.

An official wrote that plans saw the “importance of Belfast but does not examine the possibility of dividing the city in the style of Berlin with perhaps a corridor and a wall”.

Thatcher also wanted to stockpile chemical weapons. She was worried that Britain was unable to give a “like for like response” to the Russians and believed the “public would accept the building up of chemical weapon capabilities”.


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