State Papers

Albert Reynolds's 'heart was in the right place' on Northern Ireland

Former taoiseach Albert Reynolds
Éamon Phoenix

ALBERT Reynolds's "heart was in the right place" on Northern Ireland, according to an assessment of his first 100 days as taoiseach.

In a report, the British ambassador in Dublin felt the new taoiseach showed "some acceptance of the Unionist position".

Mr Reynolds had replaced Charles Haughey on February 11, 1992.

In his report to the Northern Ireland Secretary, Sir Patrick Mayhew and NIO ministers, dated May 20, 1992, David Blatherwick said that Mr Reynolds's first hundred days had been overshadowed by the abortion issue which distracted his government from economic problems and the Northern Ireland political talks.

"The abortion issue, which hit the government the day after it took office, immediately knocked them off course. It has rekindled deep passions which everyone had hoped had died down. Economic issues have had to take a back seat," he wrote.

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Turning to the north, the diplomat felt that Mr Reynolds's heart was in the right place.

"His public statements have been generally helpful and have shown some acceptance of the unionist position."

However, his knowledge of the issue was cursory. This applied also to the new minister for foreign affairs, David Andrews. Of the latter, Mr Blatherwick wrote: "Andrews himself, a nervous man with a short fuse, has been unimpressive in meetings with the British ministers."

On security cooperation, he felt there had been "a welcome change from the ambiguities of Haughey. Overall, the new taoiseach appeared as a "sensible and decent man" while the contrast with Mr Haughey continued to help him.

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