The 1983 General Election saw Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative party maintain power after a landslide win at the polls, and which witnessed the Labour experience its worst electoral performance in its history.
In Northern Ireland, despite the widening of electoral boundaries from 12 to 17 seats, the Nationalist parties lost Fermanagh & South Tyrone, holding only two of the 17 Westminster Seats: West Belfast and the newly-created Foyle.
In 1984, The Conservative Party Government was embroiled in the Miners’ Strike, which would last until the following year, and its leader, Margaret Thatcher, would remain firmly in the cross-hairs of the Irish Republican movement, as she maintained her immutable stance against conceding to any negotiations with the paramilitaries of Northern Ireland during the hunger strikes “an Irish folk memory. She will be remembered even when some of the hunger strikers are forgotten. All the 6- and 7-year olds have the memory of Thatcher in their heads” (Gerry Adams, February 1986).
Reconnaissance was conducted around Brighton, England in 1982 in preparation for an operation to coincide with the Conservative Party’s annual conference. Patrick Magee was a veteran, and on the 15th September 1984 he, under the nom de plume of Roy Walsh*, checked in at the Grand Hotel, Brighton room number 629. He stayed for three days, planting a thirty pound bomb behind a bath panel.
Fitted with an electronic timer, it detonated in the early hours of Friday 12th October, causing one of the hotel’s chimney stacks to plunge through twenty eight rooms below. Five people lost their lives that night; thirty others were injured: Norman Tebbit, The Conservative Party Chairman was buried under the rubble for hours, and his wife was permanently disabled.
Margaret Thatcher emerged unscathed, yet it proved once again, that the Provisional IRA had the ability to strike at the core of the British hierarchy in its own backyard, far removed from the bottles and bricks streets of Belfast, and was a resounding propaganda success.
Magee was later arrested with three others in Glasgow in June 1985 as part of an operation against a new Provisional IRA offensive aimed at targeting successive explosions in London and in a number of holiday resorts. 1985 would see the Anglo Irish Agreement, signed by the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and the Irish Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, which was aimed to help bring about an end to The Troubles.*deliberately ‘cocking a snoop’ at the British, as this was the name of one of the members who had carried out the Old Bailey bombing in 1974 (Event Card #70), the first operation conducted by the IRA on the British mainland.