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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Boris Johnson Advised a ‘Hard egg’ Approach to Northern Ireland Peace Process, Document Reveals

Declassified documents suggest Johnson believed in 1996 that Britain could crush the IRA

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UNITED KINGDOM: According to leaked papers, Boris Johnson advocated for a “hard egg” strategy for the Northern Ireland peace process in 1996 with the idea that Britain might crush the IRA.

At the time, the deputy editor of the Daily Telegraph preferred a security-driven approach to the political negotiations that resulted in the Good Friday accord two years later.

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According to a classified note from an Irish diplomat to the Irish government, Johnson appeared to think that Britain could achieve a military triumph in the closing stages of the Troubles. 

The diplomat reported their conversation, which took place on February 13, 1996, four days after an IRA bomb decimated London’s docklands and broke a ceasefire, saying, “Johnson argued for what he called a ‘hard egg’ approach.”

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The document, which included conversations with British journalists and opinion formers, was made public this week by the National Archives of Ireland as part of a collection of Irish official files.

The envoy reportedly informed Johnson that using a “hard egg” strategy would result in “broken heads” and that finding a peaceful solution should be the top priority. Johnson disagreed, claiming that the IRA had declared a truce in 1994 just as it was about to be defeated.

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As John Major’s administration eked out a contentious peace process and laid the groundwork for the Good Friday agreement, the discourse highlighted the hawkish feeling in conservative British political and media circles. Johnson said to the Irish official that Major was viewed as being too amenable to the Irish government by Charles Moore, then the editor of the Daily Telegraph.

According to Peter Riddell, a political commentator for the Times, Major “actively dislikes” the head of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), John Hume, but gets along better with Mallon’s deputy.

In a different dossier dated September 1992, British dissatisfaction with unionist leaders was documented. The leader of the Democratic Unionist party, Ian Paisley, was referred to as an “extraordinarily dated creature” by the Northern Ireland secretary, Sir Patrick Mayhew, at a meeting with Irish officials. Mayhew described the Ulster Unionist party as “thick.”

Prince Andrew foresaw Sinn Féin’s growth, according to a different memo. Three months after the Good Friday Agreement, he visited the US in July 1998 and warned Orla O’Hanrahan of the Irish Consulate in Boston. 

He said that if Sinn Féin popularity increased in the Republic, “a prospect he thought likely,” “the Irish would be laughing on the other side of their faces.” The formerly marginal party has rapidly expanded since 1998 and is widely anticipated to form the next administration.

Also Read: Boris Johnson Desires to “Do a Berlusconi” and Return to Power: Rory Stewart

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