State Papers

Unionists 'felt nationalists had benefited from IRA violence'

Unionists were unhappy at talks between Gerry Adams and John Hume
Dr Éamon Phoenix

REPORTS that the unionist community felt nationalists had benefited from IRA violence and were angered by the Anglo-Irish Agreement caused concern in the British government.

Newly-released documents from 1993 show the government was alarmed by two reports - one from a US diplomat which pointed to widespread alienation and "a sense of betrayal" among unionists, and another by University of Ulster academics which showed the unionist community was unhappy at talks between Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and SDLP leader John Hume.

The UU report, which involved interviews with religious leaders, community activists and business people across the north, found that unionists wanted the British government to get rid of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, ignore Mr Adams and the Irish government and promote a peace deal which "respected the views of the Protestant majority".

It also highlighted a dislike of fair employment legislation and a belief that Protestants were now being discriminated against.

The report found that unionists across the social spectrum felt alienated although the middle classes "disguised it better".

Unionists felt the Anglo-Irish agreement had broken the "contract" between them and Britain. They were also angered by the Hume-Adams talks.

"It is clear that the position of John Hume is central to Protestant thinking," the report said.

"He is always referred to as a figure of power – almost superstitiously. The implication is that he is very clever... and not to be trusted."

In a March 1993 note, US diplomat Doug Archard told the Northern Ireland Office that "Protestants now believe republican violence had paid in terms of both advancing the nationalist political agenda and seeing more resources under government schemes such as targeting social need".

Mr Archard said he had some sympathy with unionists, saying "even when the Protestant community organised itself to promote development in loyalist areas, ministers, senior officials and Unionist MPs were noticeable by their absence".

The US diplomat said he had sought to persuade officials in the Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs of the "extent of unease" in the unionist community but "had been dismayed to find the DFA dismissive".

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