'The Iron Lady': feeling shame over shared nationality with IRA members

I recently watched ‘The Iron Lady’ with my sister. Excellent film, although I think it was not good judgement to release it during Margaret Thatcher’s lifetime - I can understand the frustration of her children with the film’s portrayal of her today. The hideous terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) came up in the movie a couple of times, most prominently in the murder of one of Margaret’s aides and in the Brighton hotel bombing. Even though I hadn’t even been born until towards the end of MT’s time as Prime Minister, I felt so ashamed at seeing these acts of violence on-screen. I am not fiercely patriotic, but I even felt shame that I am of the same nationality as most of those who carried out those acts of terrorism.

Is it wrong for me to feel this latter shame of sharing my nationality with members of the IRA?

I posted in Popular Media as a film is heavily related to my question. I’ll leave it to the good judgement of the mods if the thread should be moved elsewhere. Thanks.

I don’t think shame should extend any further than responsibility; shared nationality doesn’t stain you. The only representatives you’re responsible for are the ones you vote for or otherwise support. If you had some real influence over one of these terrorist acts happening, that would be a different situation. You didn’t lend aid or support (even moral support).

So while they may say they represent you, it’s just an empty claim.

Get to know the context within which the IRA violence occurred - eg the long-standing repression of Catholics in Ireland by Protestant British. the Bloody Sunday shootings by British soldiers and the ‘Troubles’. Neither side, including Thatcher herself (look at her reaction to the Irish hunger strikers who if memory serves were protesting being imprisoned under harsh and repressive legislation introduced by her government) is anything like innocent.

Margaret Thatcher is an evil woman. The British army has committed such atrocities in your country. I would be ashamed to be British, not Irish. The IRA were completely justified in fighting for their country just like any other country would be if they were occupied.

I don’t think anything justifies blowing up innocent people in places like the pub in Guildford or the hotel in Brighton, though.

Margaret Thatcher’s former speechwriter was on Dennis Miller’s radio show talking about this movie and how it portrayed her husband in a not-very-favorable light. I can’t stand Meryl Streep anymore (I much prefer her earlier movies like “Silkwood,” “The Deer Hunter” and “Kramer vs. Kramer” before her ego blew up soooo bad), but the more chatter I’m hearing about this movie, curiosity may inevitably get the best of me.

Edited to add: I used to work with a British immigrant who practically hated anything and everything associated with Ireland. Wore black on St. Patrick’s Day and got nauseous any time she heard Enya. Needless to say, probably not a Riverdance fan. I’m not naive, but I didn’t realize some of those wounds still run deep. :frowning:

I would say telling someone who is located in Ireland as the OP is facts like this is akin to Irish citizens telling Americans about Pearl Harbour or the Boston Tea Party. Also don’t confuse Protestant and British, they are not interchangeable terms and also if you look a the historical roots of the situation you will find Irish republicianism and nationalism has deep roots in the Protestant as well as Catholic community.

Thatcher and the British gov are hardly innocent parties in this.

Neither do I but most members of the IRA were not involved in those events. I admire Irish martyrs like Bobby Sands and his comrades who sacrificed their lives for each other. They are true heroes and loved immensely by their people. Margaret Thatcher let them die, their blood is on her hands. She was vicious towards her own people as well, not just the Irish.

Particular thanks to Havard and LilyM for your responses. I don’t mind the advice about getting to know the history of the Troubles… It’s good to remember it as long as you’re learning from it and using it to grow in charity.

Also, to havana1: I haven’t experienced the effects of that so much myself, but I can certainly understand the hurt from which misdirected anger stems, having held onto a lot of anger about Ireland’s history myself. (I’m still learning to let go in ways.)

Like most such issues, they are complex. British rule of Ireland was notorious. Actually, I read somewhere that the trouble began after Adrian IV (the one and only English Pope) ‘gave’ Ireland to the British crown because - allegedly - the Irish were insufficiently or incorrectly Catholic! If true, it certainly is ironic.

 As pointed out already, Protestant Irish played a leading role in the anti-British movement. The majority in six counties of the North have been Protestant and voted to remain in the UK. The war against British occupation of what is now the Republic of Ireland was basically justified. After independence, however, when it comes to the North, terrorism became wrong - and was very bad PR for the IRA and the Irish generally. Fortunately, the situation seems to have eased. 

 The latest reports out of Ireland suggest that the Church has suffered a major setback there, in large part because of the predatory scandals there. In addition, the general reaction in Europe against religious faith has had an influence.

  One old joke, not very funny. Years ago an IRA member went to confession. He said to the priest: "Father, the other day I blew up a British tank, I dynamited a British army post, and then I killed at least six more British soldiers." The priest responded: "That's all quite interesting, my son. But stop politics and start confessing your sins." 

  PS  My Dad used to complain rather bitterly that Ireland refused to enter World War II to fight Hitler. He apparently knew a few Irish Americans who were so anti-British that they hoped for a Nazi victory.

Margaret Thatcher ranks as one the very best of Prime Ministers Britain ever had. She dragged Britain up from the deep malaise it had fallen into thanks to years of Labor party welfarism and rampant left wing union domination of industry and politics.

The IRA was more about organised thuggery than it was about political independence. Britain was ‘got at’ by every revolutionary, reactionary political party around the world that tried so hard to destabilise and undermine western society. Even Gaddafi’s Libya had a helping hand. I was in Northern Ireland at the time of the troubles and I was amongst Protestants as openly Catholic and they couldn’t care two hoots about my religion. The North is British by choice.

As a Catholic of mixed Northern and Southern Irish, Scottish, English, Welsh and other descent, I have a fairly unique perspective on Ireland.

However one thinks about Thatcher as a Prime Minister, you can’t escape the fact that she was leader of a political party that won three general elections by a landslide (and just scraped through the next one without her as leader).

She comes from a principled Methodist background which taught her that one of the most important aspects of a person’s life was to take responsibility for one’s own actions and one’s own welfare to the fullest extent possible. But she also grew up in an environment where those that had fallen on bad times would be treated with respect and charity by her father (who ran the family grocery business). She stuck to those beliefs.

The trouble with people whose view of her is antagonistic is that they fail to recognise that she took control of a country that was in the grip of a national malaise of industrial strife, deeply uncompetitive industry and that was sinking like a stone. The industries that Thatcher ‘decimated’ were not decimated deliberately by her. They were already on life support and that support was sapping the rest of the country. It wasn’t pleasant what happened to the mining industry, for sure, but there was no alternative.

The other problem is that frequently people make statements about the 1980s governments that are patently untrue and that can be shown as lies by simple investigation. People claim that the National Health Service was starved of money and was being cut, left right and centre, when in fact every single figure proves that the amount of money spent by the government on the NHS went up every single year, over and above inflation. But political opponents, in trying to persuade people to vote for them, will keep on perpetuating the same lie over and over again until it becomes an accepted - but erroneous - version of events.

Since when has it ever been just to tell lies about people that that one disagrees with?

Now as for the history of Westminster’s interventions in Ireland, the political process towards ending the Troubles began in earnest with the Anglo Irish Agreement (which, at the time, enraged Unionists)… and that Agreement was signed between Margaret Thatcher and the Irish Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, in 1985… right in the middle of Margaret Thatcher’s tenure and after a considerable period of time working to lead up to it. The culmination of that process led, eventually, to the Good Friday Agreement, and ultimately to the IRA laying down their weapons. Notwithstanding a few outstanding die-hards who occasionally reject the political process, the Peace Process can be said to have started under Thatcher, gained momentum under her successor, John Major, and -to his credit - came to its conclusion under Tony Blair who was ably assisted by the late Mo Mowlem.

I think Thatcher’s record, in hindsight, over Ireland must be viewed in relation to the process she set in play. It was never going to be something that she or anyone else was going to fix overnight, but she must be afforded credit for beginning something that ended with the withdrawal of the military presence on the ground since, whatever your point of view, situations that require one side or another to resort to military strength to resolve or contain a political conflict should never get so far.

Like all politicians, she made many mistakes, but I think compared to some more recent ones who go fomenting wars, Margaret Thatcher has far less to be ashamed of.

If the topic can center around the film itself: quality, cast, story, etc. The thread can remain in Popular Media.
If the topic centers on the history of Margaret Thatcher’s role as Prime Minister the thread will need to be moved out of Popular Media.

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