Ian Paisley 'favoured fundamentalists over DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson'

Documents reveal UUP leader James Molyneaux was believed to have provided some stability in the relationship with Ian Paisley. Picture by Pacemaker
Michael McHugh, PA

IAN Paisley favoured religious fundamentalists over his DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson during the first round-table peace talks between the main parties in Northern Ireland.

He was impulsive and appeared to set impossible conditions in 1991, according to a note published by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

The Brooke/Mayhew negotiations excluded Sinn Féin, but were the first to have three strands: the relationships within Northern Ireland, between the north and the Republic, and between London and Dublin.

An NIO official wrote: "There have been very clear indications that he (Paisley) is very aware of his religious fundamentalists, who are against any political compromise, and instinctively favours them over the career politicians such as Robinson."

The note said Mr Paisley was a clergyman before he was a politician and he would not want to offend his church followers.

"If it comes down to a stark choice Paisley is more likely to block political progress than damage his (Free Presbyterian) church."

It said former UUP leader James Molyneaux provided some stability in their relationship.

The official record said Mr Paisley had the charisma and popular support which his unionist counterpart lacked, and suggested the British government work on the more volatile DUP leader to loosen up his UUP colleague.

"Paisley is also the key factor in selling any political package to the wider unionist community; more than Molyneaux he is the authentic voice of gut unionism."

It said a newspaper interview by Mr Paisley in 1991 appeared to set "impossible" conditions for a resumption of talks and took his deputy leader by surprise.

"Paisley's strategic aim, and indeed his attitude to the recent talks, remains obscure."

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