Ian Gow (1937-1990) was a British politician, Cabinet minister and ally of Margaret Thatcher. He was assassinated by the Provisional IRA in July 1990.
Gow was born in London, the son of a Harley Street doctor, and educated at the elite Winchester College. In the late 1950s, he completed two years’ national service, mainly as a junior officer stationed in the Northern Ireland town of Omagh. Gow then completed a law degree and became a solicitor.
Gow entered parliament in February 1974, winning election as the member for Eastbourne. His staunch conservatism brought Gow to the attention of party leader Thatcher. He became one of Thatcher’s most loyal and trusted advisors. In 1979 Gow was rewarded with the role of parliamentary private secretary to the prime minister. He also served for two years as Thatcher’s housing minister.
While Gow held no official role connected with Northern Ireland, his military service left him with a particular interest in matters there. During the mid-1970s, Gow was closely aligned with Airey Neave. When Neave was assassinated by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in 1979, Gow replaced him as a significant policy advisor on Northern Ireland.
Like Neave, Gow was opposed to devolution, power-sharing or cross-border agreements with Dublin. His friends in Northern Ireland were Unionists; he considered Republican paramilitaries nothing more than murderous criminals – and said so many times. Thatcher’s signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement appalled Gow, who chose to side with Ulster Unionists and Loyalists. Days after the agreement was signed he resigned from the ministry in protest.
Relegated to the backbench, Gow maintained his strong interest in Northern Ireland, frequently asking questions about the progress of government policy there. He also continued his verbal attacks on the Provisional IRA. This made Gow an obvious target, though he took only limited security precautions.
On July 31st Gow was fatally wounded by a three-kilogram bomb, planted underneath his car. The Provisional IRA immediately took responsibility for Gow’s death, citing his closeness to Thatcher and his willingness to intervene in the politics of Northern Ireland.
Title: “Ian Gow”
Authors: Jennifer Llewellyn, Steve Thompson
Publisher: Alpha History
Date published: January 20, 2018
Date accessed: May 29, 2023