and the Wicked Witch of the West played
by Margaret Hamilton in the classic
1930 film "The Wizard of Oz"
So, the Iron Lady has gone to the great parliament in the sky. It is one of those events that we have all awaited but when it does eventually happen there appears to be something surreal about it. Perhaps it is the fact that she was such a towering force in British politics or perhaps it was the fact that we had all forgotten about her and realised that her iron had turned to rust.
The death of Mrs T raises questions for most of us in the New North. It is no exaggeration to say that a lot of the people here hated her for one reason or another. There was something about her brashness which bordered on cruelty that made her repulsive to a Catholic conscience; the ‘greed is good’ philosophy or the statement that ‘there is no such thing as society’ we all recognised as being accurate if you happened to one of Mrs T’s middle class cronies in Finchley.
If you take the time to watch the video of Mrs T being confronted by Diana Gould on TV at the time of the sinking of the Belgrano you will recall something of the arrogance and pride in the woman. Thatcher was still of the opinion that Britain ruled the waves and was a mighty empire when the decline of her nation was well under way.
But what does the whole saga of Mrs T tell us about people and our humanity?
The first thing it tells us is that we are not God and that we are all mortal: Margaret Thatcher, born Grantham 1925, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, succumbed to the ravages of old age and dies of a stroke, the same as the rest of us shall someday die in some manner.
Do you recall her crying as she left Downing Street after she had been unceremoniously dumped by the men in grey suits? That was the real start of her demise.
On a human side she was a wife and a mother of two children. Her husband Denis was portrayed as a drunken bumbling fool in the satirical press but I do not think for one minute that he was anything of the sort.
Mark got lost in the desert in 1982 while driving in the Paris to Dakar rally and was missing for two days before being found some forty miles off course.
In 2005 he pleaded guilty to helping organize a coup in Equatorial Guinea and was fined 3 million rand (whatever that amounted too) and was given a four year suspended jail sentence. This affair led to him being refused a visa to live in America—a bit of a humiliation for the Iron Lady’s son.
Carol (born 15 August 1953) is a journalist, author and media personality. She is the twin sister of Mark and like her brother she has not made much of an impact in public life, so far.
When Mark appeared on the TV the other day to speak about his mother’s death and funeral he looked decidedly uncomfortable as he constantly rubbed his hands.
The point I am trying to make is that while we saw the Iron Lady, there was somewhere underneath all that arrogance and pride, a mother.
The life of Margaret Thatcher also teaches us another very important lesson; there is no such thing as important people, there are just people with important jobs. For a while the person shines and is the centre of the world and then the inevitable demise and the sinking into oblivion.
Where is John Major or Tony Blair today?
Did Margaret Thatcher become bitter and disillusioned? In fairness to the woman she said very little after she was ousted.
These are the political questions about the Iron Lady but there is another aspect of the death of Mrs T that we should look at.
What does the death of Mrs T and our reaction to it tell us about ourselves?
I didn’t dance on the streets but I lost no tears. However, I was surprised by the relative indifference within me to her death. For years I would have thought that I would have delighted in the demise of what I believed to be a ruthless woman.
I have always held to the belief that Margaret Thatcher would have let every prisoner in the Kesh die on hunger strike. The death of Airey Neave in the Palace of Westminster on March 30th 1979 had a profound effect on her. She is quoted as saying “I shall not negotiate with the men who killed Airey Neave.”
Britain's First Woman Prime Minister
As a point of fact she was wrong in this because the Provos did not blow up Neave, it was the INLA.
Margaret Thatcher was very sure of herself when it came to questions of morals. On December 8th, 1980, she was interviewed by a reporter called Peter Murphy for Independent Radio News about talks she had with the Irish Government and when she was asked if the hunger strikes were discussed she replied,
“No, because our attitude to the hunger strikers is very well known. First, there can be no question of political status, murder is murder and those who wish to take explosives to risk other people's lives are criminals.”
I’ll bet any person over the age of fifty shall remember the hate filled tone of her voice when she said these words. But leaving that aside, this statement raises another issue.
Yes, murder is murder. But on the 12th February 1989, Pat Finucane was murdered at the behest of her soldiers in front of his family as he sat eating his Sunday tea. Most Catholics in Northern Ireland believed then and probably still believe that such an action would have had to be sanctioned at the very top—if murder is murder then murder is murder when carried out by the British as well.
The big problem for Catholics and nationalists is that there always appeared to be one understanding of murder when carried out by republicans and another when done under the direction of the state. And there is no arguing with the fact that Mrs Thatcher in some of her pronouncements gave credence to this understanding.
Even in her politics in England, Thatcher personified the belief that people are not important, particularly poor people like miners and the unemployed.
“And, you know, there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first.”
These are her words in an interview to Women's Own in 1987. Although she never actually said publically in a speech that ‘greed is good’ her whole political understanding and her insistence that the market would take care of everything reflected this attitude.
Then came the sinking of the Belgrano, which I mentioned earlier, but the common belief is that Thatcher sank the Belgrano in order to scupper any chance of a peace deal, which was being brokered at the time by Peru. That belief, whether it is true or not, was burned into the public consciousness.
Some in the unionist party thought Thatcher was a hero. She stood up to the “men of violence”, let the hunger strikers die and was doing what many of their politicians would have wanted to be done. Then came the signing of the Anglo Irish Agreement which in effect gave the Irish government a say in the running of Northern Ireland; the unionist opinion changed towards Mrs T, but the unionist need not have worried, the Free Staters had no real interest in helping the Irish in the north.
And on Saturday evening we had the whole saga of the song “Ding, Dong, the witch is dead”; would Radio 1 play it or not, would it make number one? The young people who were buying the song probably were not even born when Mrs T was prime minister, but it shows the depth of feeling that she arouses, although in fairness a lot of the people who bought the song were only doing so to see what all the hullaballoo was about.
My reaction to the life and death of Margaret Thatcher has a lot to teach me about myself. I first heard of her death when I received a text message on Monday afternoon. Then the jokes started. Thankfully I only got two of these, the first one was about her last words, which were reported to be, “The Lady’s not returning.” This was a pun on her famous remark “The Lady’s not for turning.”
The second was about her birth, death and being sadly missed. I laughed heartily at it; whoever thought it up had a wicked sense of humour.
Strangely, I was not elated at her death. In fact it was more a matter of disinterest to me. Her hatred of republicans and her obvious contempt for all people who were not middle class English is now a matter of indifference to me.
For years I would have wished her to burn in hell but perhaps time or age has caused me to mellow a little. I do not wish her ill, nor do I hope that she is in hell, but her death raises some points that are worth considering.
Margaret Thatcher, like all of us, shall have to give an account of her life. “Murder is murder is murder,” she said when justifying letting men die on hunger strike for no real reason. When she had crossed the great river of life and entered the afterworld, Margaret Thatcher eventually came face to face with Jesus.
The Light of God is the Light of Truth. Margaret Thatcher saw all her life in the infinite light of God’s truth. And she saw how her life, her ambition, lack of compassion and every decision she ever made, impacted on the life of others.
In fairness, she also saw the results of the good deeds she did as well. We cannot judge in any way the soul of Margaret Thatcher, but her life is great proof that there is a God and that we shall all answer to him.
Margaret Thatcher deserves justice. The world she left behind also deserves justice. If she was acting with good intent and genuinely believed in everything she did then we shall all see this in the fullness of time.
If she knew about the “shoot to kill” policy, or sank the Belgrano for political gain, then the people who died and their families deserve justice.
But only God can know these things; neither the condemnation nor the exoneration of Margaret Thatcher is our job.
On Tuesday morning while at Mass in Lavey chapel, I said a prayer for the old dear. It was tough going getting the words out and there was very little sincerity in the way I said them, but by the time I got to Saturday I had found that I could muster a good deal of sincerity.
Northern Ireland has moved on. Thatcher lived to see what she believed to be the “men who killed Airey Neave” in power. And for this I am thankful; it must have stuck in her craw. We are comfortable in the New North, not feeling superior or inferior to anyone. That’s how it should be.
We have left Thatcher and her hatred behind.
The dancing in the streets was perhaps a little distasteful but if you courted controversy like Mrs Thatcher did, you can hardly complain if it continues after you die. I am definitely going to listen to the record about the witch being dead on the internet.
When Thatcher met Bobby Sands in the presence of God she met him as an equal. God has no favourites. The relationship between these two old adversaries has to be settled in the light of God’s infinite justice before they can move on. An interesting meeting!
Before we go too much into the judgement of Thatcher and how she will react on meeting Bobby Sands, we should all remember that there shall be plenty of people in our own lives whom we shall have to meet.
I think I’ll have enough bother with my own judgment without judging Mrs T.
But I am glad there is justice, even if I have a lot to answer for myself. The ordinary folk will never get justice in this world. Thatcher shall be buried with great pomp and circumstance, the poor blighters in the Belgrano sank to the bottom of the sea—but now they are equal.
the death of Margaret Thatcher
Even worse, it was announced that the funeral would be a celebration of the victory of the British in the Falklands War and that no representative from Argentina would be asked to attend.
Divisive in life, divisive in death: the legacy of Margaret Thatcher.
Do I hope she is in heaven? Not really. But I definitely hope she is not in hell. I wish no one to go there. I’ll say a prayer that she gets out of the in between place a good bit faster; then she’ll owe me a favour when we meet wherever!
And I hope the all merciful Lord has more pity on her than she had on the hunger strikers.
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