Senior UK diplomat thought Anglo-Irish Agreement was an "insult" to Northern Ireland – FCO papers

Newly-released Foreign Office papers show how UK's former top man in Europe believed deal between Dublin and London was "an insult and a degradation for Ulster"

By Jonathan Owen

26 Aug 2016

Less than a month after the historic Anglo-Irish agreement was signed in November 1985 a retired senior British diplomat attacked it as an insult to the people of Northern Ireland, according to newly released FCO papers.

The 1985 deal gave Dublin a role in Northern Ireland for the first time in more than six decades, although it was strongly opposed by unionist MPs.

In a letter marked ‘restricted’ and dated 9 December 1985, N.J.Barrington, FCO assistant under secretary, warned David Goodall, FCO deputy under secretary: “I was distressed to hear my old Ambassador, Sir C O’Neill, say at a reception tonight (privately to me) that he thought the latest Irish agreement to be an insult and a degradation for Ulster. It showed Englishmen would never understand Northern Ireland.”

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He added: “Has any thought been given to calling in such people (and also Lord Moran) and thrashing the latter over with them, in the hope of persuading them of the government’s good intentions.”

Barrington concluded: “A sustained selling job is needed on the Agreement, it seems to me, and we cannot leave it all to the Northern Ireland Office."

Goodall, in a handwritten reply, thanked Barrington for the “useful reminder” but pointed out: "Publicity on all this is very much in the hands of the NIO.” 

However, he added that officials were considering “whether more should be done and if so how the FCO might help.” 

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