Margaret Thatcher did give go-ahead for talks with republicans at the height of hunger strikes (Belfast Telegraph)

Margaret Thatcher gave the go-ahead for secret talks with republicans during the hunger strikes — despite her public insistence that there would be no negotiations with terrorists, her authorised biography has revealed.

The reputation of the former Prime Minister would have been damaged had her actions behind the scenes been known at the time, author Charles Moore concluded.

Mrs Thatcher, who died earlier this month and received a ceremonial funeral last week, authorised contacts with senior republicans to attempt to end the first hunger strike, the book revealed.

Moore, who was given full access to the former Prime Minister’s personal papers and Government files, said the “Iron Lady had been disingenuous over the Maze crisis in 1980”.

And the result, according to the book published yesterday, was that the IRA learned the Government was open to negotiation.

A high-ranking security officer had activated links to the IRA leadership through Londonderry businessman Brendan Duddy, who told him that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness “wanted the hunger strike stopped”.

A formula designed to allow republicans to save face was drawn up and NIO official Kenneth Stowe arranged an urgent meeting with Mrs Thatcher in the House of Commons which was also attended by then Secretary of State Humphrey Atkins.

“While this was in progress the officer sat in Stowe’s official car, waiting to be rushed to Heathrow (to travel to NI). Mrs Thatcher agreed to the mission.”

Moore writes: “In (her) view this was a very different thing from direct talks between herself and other Ministers and Sinn Fein-IRA.”

Later she told the author: “I wouldn’t deal with these people — they kill left, right and centre. What security did was approach people to try to get a message through.”

But, Moore said: “She was being disingenuous.”

Mrs Thatcher was presiding over the Christmas party at No 10 when news that the strike had ended came through.

When the second hunger strike began in January 1981 Mrs Thatcher came under pressure

from the US, the EEC and Dublin. One of the key demands of the prisoners was to be allowed to wear their own clothing.

A record of a phone call with Atkins from the time showed she was prepared for the death of Bobby Sands and others.


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