Ian Paisley rebuked for describing Bishop Daly as ‘black Pope’

North papers show Cardinal Ó Fiaich pressed for release of UVF murderer Gusty Spence

The late Democratic Unionist Party leader Rev Ian Paisley was rebuked by Northern Ireland secretary of state Douglas Hurd in 1984 after Dr Paisley had condemned Bishop Cahal Daly as "the black Pope of the Republican movement".

Dr Paisley’s “intemperate tone”, the Conservative politician said at a private meeting between the two in Stormont House in November 1984, “sat oddly”, according to papers released in Belfast under the 30-year rule.

Responding, the DUP leader said Bishop Daly’s recent statements had been deeply offensive. “For example, the Bishop had said that the British handling of the [Anglo-Irish] Summit had played into the hands of the IRA and that [Roman Catholics] had no rights or justice in Northern Ireland. The Bishop had also asserted that the British had no more right to a presence in Northern Ireland than the government of the Republic,” according to a note of the meeting taken by a Northern Ireland Office official.

Political talks

As to possible political talks, Dr Paisley said he had urged SDLP leader

John Hume

to start talking with other leaders.

However, Mr Hume had said he must wait for the results of the recent Anglo-Irish Summit. After the summit, Dr Paisley said he had not made any triumphalist statements, as Mr Hurd had accused. He had had a long conversation with Mr Hume on November 23rd and had told him he was ready to discuss with Mr Hume outside the Assembly how a way forward might be found.

The SDLP leader had agreed to this but said he must first discuss matters with the Irish government.

Treatment of prisoners

Meanwhile, the files reveal that Catholic Primate Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich had pressed the Northern Ireland secretary in 1984 for the release of prominent UVF murderer Gusty Spence from imprisonment.

Spence, a former soldier with the Royal Irish Rifles, was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment in 1966 for the murder of a young Catholic barman, Peter Ward, at a Shankill Road pub. Shortly afterwards, the UVF was proscribed.

Cardinal Ó Fiaich raised the issue of the treatment of prisoners at a meeting of Catholic Church representatives with Mr Hurd in Stormont House on December 3rd 1984.

“He himself visited members of Protestant paramilitary groups in prison and had recommended the release of ‘Gusty’ Spence. He thought that the release of Spence could influence Protestants to give up violence,” the cardinal said.

Meanwhile, Catholic bishops warned Mr Hurd in December 1984 that prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s “Out, Out, Out” rejection of the New Ireland Forum report had alienated Catholics from the state

At a meeting between Cardinal Ó Fiaich and senior bishops with Mr Hurd on December 3rd, 1984, Bishop Edward Daly spoke of his dismay at Mrs Thatcher's conduct.