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Robinson and Hume make their mark on US trip

FIRST Minister Peter Robinson and the former SDLP leader John Hume feature in previously confidential files from 1985 released today by the Public Record Office in Belfast.

The file concerns a multi-party conference at Airlie House in Virginia, USA in January 1985 which was attended by the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Sir Ken Bloomfield.

In his report to the British Secretary of State, Douglas Hurd, Sir Ken described the DUP leader - who was then the party's deputy leader - in unusually glowing terms: "Three days exposure to Peter Robinson amply demonstrated what a forceful, articulate and crafty politician he is."

Sir Ken contrasted Mr Robinson's performance with that of the SDLP representatives at the conference and particularly the party leader, John Hume. He penned a colourful metaphor about the former Foyle MP and MEP following a US conference.

It followed skilful and sustained unionist pressure on the nationalist leader to engage in talks about internal government, an official file said.

The SDLP founder would go on to earn the Nobel accolade alongside Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble for efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

The file said: "John Hume is normally in his element in the United States where he is widely regarded as occupying a position somewhere between Charles Stewart Parnell and Mother Teresa.

On this occasion he gave a chilling impression of political bankruptcy, rather like a man who has lost a fortune by backing a particular number consistently at the roulette table and continues to stare at that number even though he no longer has a stake to play."

* PROMINENT: Peter Robinson, left, and John Hume, right, made impressions on a 1985 visit to the US

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