Cill Dara Shinn Féin Poblachtach

Thatcher dies: memory of Hunger Strikers lives on

The announcement of the death of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on April 8 immediately brought to mind all of those who were victims of her policies and unrelenting right-wing ideology. 

 It affects us here in Ireland as well but around the world both directly and indirectly by her unstinting support for fascist regimes such as that of Augusto Pinochet in Chile. 

In Ireland we of course think at once of the 1981 hunger strikes and the stonehearted response of Thatcher’s government to any appeal to a common humanity. The Patron of Republican Sinn Féin Ruairí Ó Brádaigh says that one of his abiding memories of the 1981 election campaign in support of the prisoner candidates is that at the very mention of the name Bobby Sands people would raise their heads whereas when Margaret Thatcher’s name was uttered people’s heads would drop. 

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s News At One programme on April 8 the former deputy-leader of the SDLP Séamus Mallon stated that Thatcher viewed the 26-County State as merely a colony of Britain. 

Under Thatcher a vicious war of terror was waged on the nationalist people of the Six Counties, which included a stepping up of the collusion between British State forces and loyalist death squads. 

Human rights lawyers such as Pat Finucane, assassinated by a British-backed loyalist death squad in 1988, became prime targets of a British State determined to crush all opposition to its hold on Ireland.
To understand Thatcher you must grasp that she was an unreconstructed colonialist who could not imagine the sun ever setting on a fast-diminishing British world dominance. 

Her imperialist adventure to wrest Las Malvinas back from Argentina in 1982 seemed more like something from 1882 but was very much part of the image she wished to cultivate. 

Cloaking herself in jingoism and intolerance she was prepared to murder over 323 young Argentinean sailors on the Belgrano in order to bolster her grip on power in Britain. 

Within her own State she had no scruples about waging war on entire communities and almost the entire trade union movement, openly declaring that the miners were “the enemy within”. 

The scars of the social upheaval caused by Thatcherism are all too evident in the Britain of 2013. As one commentator noted she was prepared to sacrifice two-thirds of her people in order to satisfy one-third. Her legacy was one of polarisation and increased inequality. 

From an Irish perspective she epitomised a British political establishment that had failed to learn from its experience by continuing to implement the same polices of coercion and oppression in response to the Irish people’s demand for national freedom. Sadly her successors seem as blinkered in their approach to Ireland. 

The continued repression directed against Irish Republicans simply prolongs the conflict while internationally Thatcher’s faith in an unregulated market helped sow the seeds of the present world economic collapse with its dire consequences for working people throughout Europe and around the world. 

So on this day we do not mourn her passing but here in Ireland we proudly remember those who died in defiance of her attacks on freedom and democracy.

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