State Papers

Haughey raised likely reception by unionists ahead of first visit to Belfast

Taoiseach Charles Haughey pictured addressing the Institute of Directors at the Europa Hotel in Belfast in 1990. Picture by Pacemaker
Dr Éamon Phoenix

CHARLES Haughey, the Taoiseach in 1990, raised his likely reception by unionists at a business conference in Belfast during discussions with Secretary of State Peter Brooke in Dublin.

The meeting between Mr Brooke and Irish ministers is recorded in a letter from Richard Gozney, private secretary to the British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, to Charles Powell, private secretary to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

At the meeting on April 6 1990, Mr Brooke outlined his proposals for inter-party talks.

The minutes record that while the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Gerry Collins, emphasised that "the door was not closed", Mr Haughey sought to establish a link between Dublin’s response and the reception which he might receive on his forthcoming visit to Belfast on April 11.

The Taoiseach’s justification for the linkage "was that if the unionists were serious about wanting to make progress" and accepted the need for Irish government involvement in negotiations, "they would show restraint over his visit".

However, Mr Brooke denied the validity of any such linkage.

In the event, the Fianna Fáil leader made the first official visit north by a Taoiseach since Seán Lemass in 1965 by attending the conference of the Institute of Directors in Belfast’s Europa Hotel.

The file notes that the visit "went smoothly despite a rowdy protest by one hundred demonstrators, led by the Reverend Ian Paisley".

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State Papers