Pope acted over hunger strike: Margaret Thatcher's recollections of a turbulent decade at the helm of the Conservative Party and Britain are published today

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MRS THATCHER enlisted the help of Pope John Paul II in trying to bring pressure on the Maze prisoners to end their first hunger strike in the winter of 1980, writes Donald Macintyre.

She reveals that at a meeting with the Pope on 24 November during a visit to Rome she explained the circumstances of the hunger strike.

His Holiness, she says, 'had as little sympathy for terrorists as I did'.

The Vatican subsequently put pressure on the Irish Catholic hierarchy, which then issued a statement calling on the republican prisoners to end their fast.

However, that statement also urged the British government to show some 'flexibility' in its treatment of the Maze inmates' demands.