State Papers 1985: FitzGerald told Thatcher: Give us joint courts or Agreement off

GARRET FITZGERALD warned he would not sign the Anglo Irish Agreement if Margaret Thatcher didn’t agree to a joint courts system.
And he said that if she didn’t agree to judges from both sides of the border officiating in terrorism trials, he’d look like a ‘fool’ who had been ‘led up the garden path’.
After the British Prime Minister refused to agree to the joint courts system, Dr FitzGerald warned her: ‘There could be no agreement’.
The issue of joint courts was one of a number of ‘confidence-building measures’ Dr FitzGerald had in May 1985 wanted tacked onto agreement between the two sides.
These measures, which also included reform of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, were designed to reassure the minority Nationalist community in the North.
But at their meeting on June 29, just months away from the signing of the 1985 Agreement, Mrs Thatcher – according to secret Department of the Taoiseach documents to be released on January 4 by the National Archives – observed: ‘There is no possibility of agreeing in advance to joint courts.’
In reply, Dr Fitzgerald said: ‘If I didn’t know that a system of this sort would come into existence under the agreement, (then) I could not go ahead with the agreement.
Again, the Prime Minister insisted that the British ‘just cannot undertake to institute a system of joint courts’.
Dr Fitzgerald persisted, telling her: ‘This question has to be considered now. People have been saying that I have been led up the garden path.
“They would say this even more strongly.
‘They would say that we have been fooled by the British again.’
But Mrs Thatcher told him that for their part, she believed Unionists will say a joint courts system ‘is a foot in the door’.
Dr Fitzgerald said: ‘This is a very real problem.
‘I have to be able to say, if this whole thing is to be considered, that it can happen.’
And later, he said that unless measures such as a joint court system were to be agreed to, he felt ‘we have been wasting our time’.
And he warned: ‘There just could be no agreement in those circumstances.’
The Prime Minister conceded that the British could introduce a code of conduct for the RUC and other things ‘but they must have a low profile: that is the best line’.
Dr Fitzgerald was insistent that more needed to be done by the British to reassure the minority Nationalist population.
He told her: ‘We have been saying for six months we can’t get the minority to back this agreement unless there are changes in the UDR and the RUC.
‘We can’t get the minority support without these.
‘They just cannot sell an agreement, without these changes, to their own people.’
And, again he warned her: ‘By the time the measures you mention are put in force in the way you were speaking the whole effect of the agreement will have evaporated.
‘I have put my personal authority on the line here.
‘This whole negotiation has been viewed by very many people in the south with the deepest scepticism.’
He also told her: ‘For the last Six months, the government has been increasingly sceptical about these negotiations.
‘They have been saying that unless these associated measures take place simultaneously, then they just cannot back the agreement.
‘I have persuaded them to go along with what is happening but with difficulty.
‘If things break down now it will be very damaging.’

Red Bull Crashed Ice qualifiers Dublin and Belfast

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This weekend saw the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Series qualifiers in Blanchardstown and Belfast.

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They were part of Red Bull’s search to find athletes from across the country to participate in a world series in the winter extreme sporting event of ice cross downhill.

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It is a four man full-contact, high-speed, downhill ice skating race along a 440 metre track, with steep turns and vertical drops, reaching speeds of up to 60 km/h in a timed battle, where the first to the bottom wins.

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Over 140 competitors will take part in the race on a assault course that has been specifically designed for Ireland.

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The track will be positioned in front of Stormont Parliament Buildings, Belfast and enjoyed by 40,000 spectators over two days in February.

Crashed Ice contestants after the Dublin qualifiers in Blanchardstown.
Crashed Ice contestants after the Dublin qualifiers in Blanchardstown.

These are a few random shots from this weekend’s two qualifiers.

Crashed Ice contestants after the Belfast qualifiers.
Crashed Ice contestants after the Belfast qualifiers.