The Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA) was signed by the British and Irish governments on 15 November 1985. The ‘Conservative and Unionist’ prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, stout defender of British sovereignty against the European Union, had signed an Agreement that gave a foreign government a consultative role in British policy towards Northern Ireland. What had brought about the shift in Conservative policy from the integrationism of its 1979 election manifesto to the Anglo-Irish Agreement? Did the AIA represent a ‘remarkable volte face’ in Anglo-Irish relations, or was there more evolution and continuity in British policy? Did the British sign the AIA primarily in order to improve the security situation in Northern Ireland, by addressing nationalist alienation and winning the Republic’s cooperation in the fight against terrorism? Was the AIA designed to coerce unionists and nationalists into power-sharing? Or was it just a step towards accommodation?
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