King's concerns over agreement

SECRETARY of State Tom King had concerns about the Anglo-Irish Agreement claiming it offered "more to the Irish than it does to us".

In a memo to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on September 27, 1985, Mr King said he had not been involved in the negotiations surrounding the agreement which had fallen to his predecessor Douglas Hurd.

Mr King was strongly opposed to mixed courts and determined to "eliminate any suggestion" that the Intergovernmental Conference had any executive responsibility for affairs in Northern Ireland, especially in regard to security.

"I am sure that we are right to seek an agreement that will bring us these benefits. But we must satisfy ourselves that both the agreement and the arrangements for implementing it will do this without unwelcome or unmanageable consequences, particularly in handling the unionist reaction."

Referring to meetings with Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald and the Republic's foreign affairs minister Peter Barry, Mr King said he was reluctantly forced to state that the agreement struck him "as offering considerably more to the Irish than it does to us".

"The Irish are being given an unprecedented foothold in the internal affairs of a part of UK. This must be balanced by some comparable benefit to the advantage of the UK generally and of the majority (unionist) community".

The location of Irish officials in a Belfast Secretariat "would be asking for trouble", he added.

Papers released today also reveal strong opposition agreement from Sir Ken Bloomfield, head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

In a memo to Mr King in September, 1985, Sir Ken said: "I share the view expressed by a number of colleagues that the agreement as drafted is fundamentally flawed, by reason of its ambiguity, its one-sidedness and, above all, the grave risks that it will

serve to destabilise rather than to stabilise the situation in Northern Ireland."

He regarded the question of a secretariat, its location and role adding: "I do not believe that assurances of no change in the constitutional status of NI without consent could carry the slightest conviction if senior officers of the Irish government are to be high [sic] visible on the ground in Northern Ireland in a new and distinctly ambiguous role."

Further files reveal NIO concerns at the commitment of Margaret Thatcher to the agreement just weeks before it was signed.

In a briefing note for Mr King on October 29, 1985, R J Andrew of the NIO hinted at Mrs Thatcher's ambivalence in a handwritten comment at the bottom of a page.

Stressing the Prime Minister should play a prominent role, the official informed Mr King: "Her response, indicating that she is uncertain about opening the Parliamentary debate [on the signed Agreement] is disturbing: her wholehearted support for the agreement is essential".

It was essential, he noted, "not to leave the field free to Loyalist extremists to whip up emotion over the weekend following the agreement's launch".


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