Meeting with North’s prime minister in 1965 opposed by ‘Paisley element’

Seán Lemass: Historic meeting uncovered ‘bare, hard-rock prejudices’

From left, Jack Lynch, minister for industry and commerce, Terence O’Neill, prime minister of Northern Ireland, Frank Aiken, minister for external affairs, and taoiseach Seán Lemass at Iveagh House, Dublin, in February 1965. Photograph: Joe Clarke

From left, Jack Lynch, minister for industry and commerce, Terence O’Neill, prime minister of Northern Ireland, Frank Aiken, minister for external affairs, and taoiseach Seán Lemass at Iveagh House, Dublin, in February 1965. Photograph: Joe Clarke

Ever the pragmatist, Seán Lemass had no objections when the prime minister of Northern Ireland, Terence O’Neill, invited him to travel to a snowy Belfast to meet on January 14th, 1965.

Speaking to Dermot Ryan, he said: “Now I could have said to O’Neill that the first meeting must be in Dublin, but I felt that this would be all wrong, because it would appear to be capitulation on his part.”

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