Northern Ireland news

Mo Mowlam: Irish official claimed then shadow Secretary of State was 'flaky'

Secretary of State Dr Mo Mowlam in 1998. Picture by Pacemaker
Éamon Phoenix

MO Mowlam gave British and Irish officials a 'Comic Relief kissing kit' at a lunch hosted by the Joint Anglo-Irish Secretariat in March 1997.

Newly-released files on the lunch at Maryfield, in Holywood, Co Down, show that Irish officials were unimpressed by the approach of Dr Mowlam, then shadow secretary of state.

A Northern Ireland Office memo, dated March 3, 1997, highlighted Irish Secretary, David Donoghue's "lack of enthusiasm" for Dr Mowlam.

"He does not like the lady," the memo read. "She is, for instance, 'flaky'. Neither she nor her party is seen as pro-nationalist…"

A further memo noted that some Irish members of the secretariat did not attend the lunch.

"It is not quite clear whether other members of the Irish side were absent on orders, because they were frightened of missing the plane back to Dublin, or because they simply couldn’t be bothered. A bit of all three, it seems," the memo read.

According to the memo, Dr Mowlam made a number of important points in her opening statement including: "(a) a future Labour government would be committed to maintaining a good working relationship with the Irish; (b) the balance of change in NI was in a nationalist direction; it was, therefore, all the more important to address unionist concerns, including over the role of Maryfield; and (c) a Labour government would support an inclusive talks process - indeed, it would make particular efforts to bring Sinn Féin in. But (d) they were no less attached to the principle of consent (unionist, not simply nationalist) and recognised the need to take unionists with them in a negotiated political settlement."

Dr Mowlam told the lunch she "expected the by-partisan policy (at Westminster) to collapse within two days of a new Labour government, in part owing to the 'natural affinity' between Conservatives and unionists".

Faced with London being urged on by nationalists/Sinn Féin (after a ceasefire) to face down militant unionists at Drumcree, she could easily envisage all the British press denouncing a Labour government.

"In such circumstances she could see herself lasting only three months in the job," the memo read.

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