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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: August 2012

10 - ‘Just another country’? The Irish question in the Thatcher years


In their emblematic song of commercial nihilism, ‘Anarchy in the UK’ (1977), the Sex Pistols sarcastically reflected on the bathetic fate of that once imperial title, the ‘United Kingdom’. The UK was now little more than one acronym among many in a neo-corporate Britain straining under the weight of a proliferation – NEDDY, TUC, CBI, PIB, GLC, etc. Northern Ireland seemed only the most extreme example of a general dissolution, where Parliament and government waned in their effective power of decision and acronym organisations had taken on a life of their own:

  1. Is this the M.P.L.A. or

  2. Is this the U.D.A. or

  3. Is this the I.R.A.

  4. I thought it was the U.K.

  5. Or just another country

For Conservatives, of course, punk was part of the disease. Northern Ireland, however, was in their eyes an extreme manifestation of a general malaise: the decline of parliamentary sovereignty, refusal to defend to the hilt irreducible Britishness, and conciliation of subversion and over-mighty interest groups. Indeed, by the later 1970s, it was close to common sense that Britain had made the situation in Northern Ireland worse by trying too hard to resolve it.

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