THREE years after she became Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher was facing political oblivion as unemployment doubled.
Then Argentina invaded the Falklands – and the course of history was changed, Britain won the war which ensued and the Iron Lady’s image was sealed. Yesterday, flags flew at half-mast on the islands.
Mike Summers, of the Falklands’ eight-member assembly, said: “She’s a very much revered person here for leading our return to freedom in 1982. It will be a day of great sadness for Falkland Islanders.
“Mrs Thatcher had a special feeling for the islands. She led a very difficult recapture of the islands.”
Thatcher was widely criticized, even at home, for the sinking of the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano, which was steaming away from the agreed combat zone.
But bolstered by the Falklands victory, she won the 1983 election with a 144-seat majority, even with more than three million on the dole.
In Northern Ireland, she faced even fiercer battles.
In 1980 and 1981, IRA and INLA prisoners in the Maze went on hunger strike, demanding political status.
In 1984, the IRA came close to assassinating Thatcher when they blew up the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Conservative Party conference.
The blast badly damaged the bathroom in her suite but she was unscathed.
Five people were killed, including Lady Muriel Maclean, wife of Sir Donald Maclean, president of the Scottish Conservatives.
Yesterday, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said: “Margaret Thatcher was a transformative and powerful prime minister.
“She was one of the greatest political figures of post-war Britain and she changed the face of our United Kingdom forever.
“She was one of a kind – tough, possessed of a supreme intellect and driven by conviction. The entire country is indebted to her for all that she achieved.
“Her accomplishments will not soon be forgotten by a grateful nation.”
But Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said: “Margaret Thatcher did great hurt to the Irish and British people during her time as British Prime Minister. Working class communities were devastated because of her policies.”
Former leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party John Hume described Thatcher as an extremely divisive figure.