Northern Ireland news

Ian Paisley recalls unionist fury on anniversary of Anglo Irish Agreement

Margaret Thatcher and Garret FitzGerald sign the Anglo Irish Agreement on November 15, 1985.

AS MPs met to debate the Brexit withdrawal deal yesterday, comparisons were drawn between unionist reaction to the proposals and Anglo-Irish Agreement, signed by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, 33 years ago to the day.

The agreement gave the Irish government an official, consultative role in Northern Ireland's affairs for the first time, which like the proposed Brexit bill, was met with unionist fury.

Fianna Fáil leader Charles Haughey claimed the agreement was in conflict with the Constitution of Ireland because it officially recognised British jurisdiction in the north.

A campaign against the treaty, led by the UUP and DUP, included strikes, civil disobedience and mass resignations from the House of Commons.

At a rally outside Belfast City Hall on November 23 1985, Dr Ian Paisley made his infamous "never, never, never, never" speech.

DUP MP Ian Paisley yesterday told the Irish News there were similarities between that time and the current Brexit crisis.

"Back then we were on the edge of the union, there were major atrocities ongoing and all of that was feeding into the mood," he said.

"We also didn't have the political engagement we have had over the last 15 years, the IRA were the IRA then, things were black and white, with the emergence of Sinn Féin that changed things in terms of political engagement.

"However, I do think in terms of relations with the Republic of Ireland we are in similar territory, largely because Leo Varadkar has changed the dynamic, he has ostracised and angered unionists to a similar level.

"Enda Kenny forged positive relationships, Leo and (Simon) Coveney (Tánaiste) on the other hand have managed to create angst, and that wasn't and hasn't been the case for many years.

"That makes it similar politically, in that Dublin is acting as the enemy instead of a passive neighbour, but we must always remember this is a political crisis not a security one which is what we had back then."

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