The Making of The Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985

A Memoir by David Goodall

Frank Sheridan, editor

Catalogue Price: €20.00
ISBN: 978-0-901510-87-7
Catalogue Price: €35.00
ISBN: 978-0-901510-86-0

July 2021. 244pp. Colour Ills (and Black & White)

"Garret FitzGerald did not often use racy language. Negotiating the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement with Margaret Thatcher, however, was enough to make even the genteel Fine Gael Taoiseach occasionally lose his rag. 'I know that British ministers think their word is their bond,' he once exclaimed, according to this memoir by the senior Whitehall civil servant David Goodall. 'But if I were to give Mrs Thatcher a full-frontal view of what Irish nationalism thinks of a British minister’s word, she’d be more shocked than if I gave her a full-frontal view of something else!' FitzGerald was not to know that Goodall was faithfully recording such outbursts in a diary, which he later used as the basis for a full-blown narrative about the agreement. Like all good diplomats, he was wary of embarrassing anyone and made no attempt to publish it in his lifetime … Goodall’s blow-by-blow account of how the eight-page Agreement came together fully bears this out, making clear that both sides sweated over every single word. It takes the reader through a gruelling series of tense, alcohol-fuelled discussions, occasionally disrupted by episodes such as Thatcher’s notorious 'out, out, out' dismissal of Irish suggestions … Thankfully, Goodall provides some shrewd pen-portraits and anecdotes to break up the technical details. FitzGerald was bemused by the fact that Thatcher often called him 'Gareth', complaining to her officials in private, 'Does she think I’m Welsh?' She suspected the author of being too sympathetic to Ireland and at one point asked, 'Mr Goodall, wouldn’t you like to go and be an ambassador somewhere else – a long way away?' … Thatcher ended up regarding the whole affair as perhaps her biggest mistake, telling FitzGerald, 'You got the glory and I got the problems.' Goodall, on the other hand, came to believe it was the greatest achievement of his professional life. 'It could gradually drain some bitterness out of the British-Irish relationship,' he optimistically concluded, 'and create the basic geometry for an eventual settlement.' This sober, intelligent and historically valuable memoir suggests that he was much closer to the truth." Andrew Lynch, The Sunday Business Post

“a frequent contributor over many years, Tablet readers will not be surprised by the eloquence, insight and good humour of his private memoir of the tussle between history, temperament and political calculation in the negotiations between Thatcher and FitzGerald”. The Tablet, 31 July 2021


“The Anglo-Irish Agreement was the first and crucial step towards the later Good Friday Agreement and tenuous peace in Northern Ireland. To achieve it Margaret Thatcher put to one side her instincts, loyalties and friendships because she was convinced the Agreement was the only way to end the bleak cycle of deprivation and violence in the North. David Goodall was one of the key British officials involved. His private and hitherto unpublished account of the tug-of-war between history, emotion and political calculation in the negotiations between Margaret Thatcher and Garret FitzGerald illuminates an epic piece of diplomacy.” Charles Powell, Private Secretary to Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher 1983–1990

“FitzGerald was a veteran on Northern Ireland policy: Thatcher was a relative newcomer – and a chameleon. She could be fickle and brittle on the subject, often unreadable. How and why she signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 was a mystery to some, perhaps even to herself. David Goodall’s enthralling and sometimes waspish account reveals how it was that a small group of mandarins changed the tectonic plates of the Irish-British relationship and opened the door to a more peaceful and interdependent future. It is essential to an understanding of Anglo-Irish relations before 1985 – and since.” Dr John Bowman, Author of De Valera and the Ulster Question, 1917–1973

“I think both of us thought that this [the negotiation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement] was the best thing we had done or were likely to do in our careers.” Robert Armstrong, Former UK Cabinet Secretary and lead British negotiator, from a letter written to Lady Goodall, 8 November 2018

“The National University of Ireland conferred an honorary degree on Sir David Goodall in 2015 in recognition of his significant role in making the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement a reality. We are honoured to have been entrusted with the publication of his memoir. We are also pleased to publish this memoir in which our fourth Chancellor, my predecessor, the late Dr Garret FitzGerald is such a central figure. The Anglo-Irish Agreement was the high point of his political career, the greatest of his many achievements and something which we in NUI are proud to honour through this publication.” Dr Maurice Manning, Chancellor, National University of Ireland