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1985: Anglo-Irish agreement signed

VIDEO : The first agreement with Ireland since Sunningdale

Britain and the Republic of Ireland have signed a deal giving Dublin a role in Northern Ireland for the first time in more than 60 years.

Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said it brought new hope of ending the violence in Northern Ireland.

But Treasury minister Ian Gow - one of Mrs Thatcher's closest political allies - has resigned in protest at the deal which is also opposed by the Ulster Unionists.

In a letter, Mr Gow told Mrs Thatcher the government's change of policy on Northern Ireland would "prolong and not diminish the agony of Ulster."

The Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed by Margaret Thatcher and Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald at Hillsborough Castle in County Down, Northern Ireland.

Inducement

It sets up a framework for regular conferences between British and Irish ministers to discuss matters affecting Northern Ireland.

However, if a devolved government were established in Northern Ireland, matters transferred to its power would no longer fall under the remit of the conferences.

That is being seen as an inducement for unionists who want to remain part of the United Kingdom and keep Dublin at bay.

But, for the first time, the British Government has officially committed to promoting legislation for a united Ireland if a majority is in favour.

The deal has been met with anger and bitterness by the majority loyalist community in Northern Ireland.

The 15 Ulster Unionist MPs have accused Mrs Thatcher of treachery and have said they will resign unless a referendum is held on the agreement.

However, opposition leaders at Westminster have pledged their support and the government seems certain to secure a big majority when the deal comes up for approval.

Irish MPs also have to approve the agreement which will be reviewed after three years.

In Context
Thousands turned out for demonstrations led by unionist MPs against the agreement.

Ian Gow was among Conservatives who set up an anti-agreement group in 1986 to fight the case for keeping the status quo in Northern Ireland.

In July 1990 Mr Gow was killed by a bomb planted at his home in Sussex by the IRA.

The Anglo-Irish agreement followed a failed attempt in 1973 to set up a power-sharing executive of nationalist and unionist politicians and an all-Ireland Council.

No deal accepted by all sides was reached until the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998 which created the Northern Ireland Assembly and new cross-border institutions.


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