Editorial comment: The death of Margaret Thatcher

Wednesday, 10th April, 2013 3:30pm

Editorial comment: The death of Margaret Thatcher

The death of Margaret Thatcher has sparked memories of tumultuous times in both Irish and British politics and society.

The images of the open class warfare on the streets of Britain both in the miners’ struggle and the Poll Tax riots were both shocking and instructive as to the riven nature of British society in recent decades.

Her belief in the role of the individual over society, in extreme right-wing economics and in privatisation, has ensured a bitter social legacy in England, Scotland and Wales, where large sections of urban UK are cut off and disenfranchised.

Such was the extreme nature of her beliefs that they became synonymous with her - and to many the term ‘Thatcherite’ remains a political insult.

It is true that many of her economic and political philosophies were borrowed by later leaders, including Labour’s Tony Blair, and that many see them as having dragged Britain out of its post World War Two sluggishness.

However, the role of such neoliberal economic policies in the consequent collapse of worldwide economies has served to undermine their legacy.

Thatcher’s legacy in Ireland, too, is fraught with difficulty.

Her role in the Hunger Strikes has left her as a hate figure for whole sections of the population in this country. However, her bravery in refusing to buckle in the face of IRA bombings, not least at the Tory Party conference in Brighton, was also admired by many here too.

However, in the greater picture, although she signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement, her trenchant, colonial and adversarial approach only served to lessen the possibilities of peace on this island. 

The Falklands War too, though still championed across the English channel, is another relic of a past era.

Her personal achievement in coming from humble origins, as a woman in times of overt sexism, to dominating the political world of the United Kingdom for eleven years is, of course, remarkable.

But it is the impact of her personal success on this island and on our neighbours across the Irish Sea that should define the analysis after her death.

And of course it should not be forgotten, as it was in most television coverage of her death, that she refused to back sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa, branded Nelson Mandela a terrorist, and right up to his death supported the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

At the end she will be remembered most for this type of right-wing political and economic ideology. 

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