State Papers: Britain 'dependent' on unionists to run north

Secretary of State Tom King at Windsor House in March 1986. Picture by Pacemaker
Éamon Phoenix

THE British government’s preoccupation with protecting nationalists in Northern Ireland was in danger of obscuring that it was "dependent" on the Unionists "to run" Northern Ireland.

The view by a senior NIO official is disclosed in previously confidential files released today.

In a memo for Secretary of State Tom King, dated June 19 1989, Q J Thomas of the NIO addressed the problem of Unionist alienation which he described as "one of the most striking features of the political scene".

He acknowledged that it had been "a preoccupation of [government] policy for the last twenty years to ensure adequate arrangements to protect the interests of the minority and secure a constitutional settlement which would enjoy widespread consent".

However, this would require Unionist consent because "in the end, if Westminster is not to run NI itself it must depend on the Unionists".

In the official’s view it would be "more than sad" if Unionists were to conclude that terrorism was "the only successful way of holding attention".

Thomas confided to King that it was "questionable" how far the Republic and the SDLP were "really interested in making a success of a province-wide administration at Stormont".


Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: