Paisley jnr raised prospect of ‘Border adjustments’ with US diplomat

Belfast 1994 archives: American embassy official described meetings with NI politicians

Ian Paisley jnr: in 1994 he told Larry Robinson that the DUP would be happy to re-enter the talks process at Stormont “provided that the Hume-Adams talks were ended” and the Republic made a firm commitment to a referendum on articles 2 and 3.  Photograph: PA Wire

Ian Paisley jnr: in 1994 he told Larry Robinson that the DUP would be happy to re-enter the talks process at Stormont “provided that the Hume-Adams talks were ended” and the Republic made a firm commitment to a referendum on articles 2 and 3. Photograph: PA Wire

 

Revealing insights into the thinking of several Northern Ireland politicians was provided to the British government by a London-based American diplomat in 1993.

In a newly declassified memo, dated November 30th, 1993, senior Northern Ireland Office (NIO) official Peter Bell described a conversation he had with Larry Robinson, first secretary at the US embassy in London, about his recent visit to the North where he met a range of politicians.

Bell was surprised at what local politicians would say to a visiting American diplomat whom they did not know.

Paisley jnr told Robinson that the DUP would be happy to re-enter the talks process at Stormont 'provided that the Hume-Adams talks were ended'

In particular, he referred to Ian Paisley jnr, then the 27-year-old political aide to his father, the DUP leader.

Ian Paisley: always commanded huge support among unionists over his long career. Photograph: Frank Miller
“All this was before Daddy [Ian Paisley snr] was evicted from the House of Commons” [for calling Sir Patrick Mayhew a liar]. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Paisley jnr told Robinson that the DUP would be happy to re-enter the talks process at Stormont “provided that the Hume-Adams talks were ended” and that the Republic made a firm commitment to a referendum on articles 2 and 3.

More noteworthy, Bell reported, was Paisley’s aspiration “that a devolved government in Northern Ireland would have full powers to negotiate any agreement with the Republic including (I gather Mr Paisley swallowed at this point) Border adjustments”.

‘Evicted’

The official noted Paisley’s proposal would go beyond the 1973 Act which “only gave the NI authorities such a free hand in regard to transferred matters”. He added wryly that “all this was before Daddy [Ian Paisley snr] was evicted from the House of Commons” [for calling Sir Patrick Mayhew a liar following the northern secretary’s admission of British contact with the IRA in November 1993].

Dr Joe Hendron, the SDLP MP for West Belfast, had “gamely defended’ his leader John Hume’s dialogue with Adams while apparently dwelling on the difficulties this would cause him in West Belfast”, the memo continued. (Hendron was to lose his seat to Gerry Adams in the 1997 Westminster general election.)

For his part, the Alliance Party leader John [now Lord] Alderdice “spent most of his time furiously slagging off Mr Hume whom he regarded as the single biggest obstacle to political progress in NI, not least because he had nothing to gain from a settlement”.

In Alderdice’s view, “being Deputy Chief Executive of NI (in a devolved Assembly) was nothing to him – hence, in part, his need of Sinn Féin”.