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State papers: British Government warned by Dublin over 'dangerous' Peter Robinson

By Ralph Riegel

Published 31/12/2015

Peter Robinson was seen as a ‘harder’ man than Ian Paisley
Peter Robinson was seen as a ‘harder’ man than Ian Paisley

The Government was warned by Dublin that Peter Robinson was "a dangerous man" at the first meeting of the Anglo-Irish Inter-Governmental conference.

In a secret memo, marked 'uncorrected', from the Belfast meeting on December 11, 1985, the Republic's foreign affairs minister Peter Barry urged the British to stand firm against unionist fury over the Anglo Irish Agreement signed just weeks earlier.

The British delegation was led by Northern Ireland Secretary Tom King and included some of the most senior Belfast and London civil servants.

The memo, released as part of the Irish State Archives, revealed the Dublin authorities were worried about London reacting to mounting Unionist pressure. Mr Robinson was then DUP deputy leader.

"The Unionist reaction (to the deal) wasn't any worse than I had expected," the Fine Gael deputy leader insisted.

"The Irish Government is the hate organisation for Unionists."

"I think the steam has run out of Paisley but Robinson is a dangerous man. He appears to be taking over the DUP and is a much harder man than Paisley.

"The Official Unionist Party are in some disarray but will probably recover and will feel their way back onto the centre stage."

Mr Barry forecast, accurately as it transpired, that the DUP could ultimately prove a stronger force than the OUP.

"The DUP might (eventually) do better than the OUP," he said.

While urging Britain to stand firm and honour the terms of the Anglo Irish Agreement, the Cork TD acknowledged the challenges ahead.

"I think we are in for an extremely difficult six months. But if we do not allow ourselves to be pushed off the agreement then everything should be OK."

The British delegation repeatedly pressed the Irish government on action against Sinn Fein. The memo revealed that the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition was committed to increasing pressure to reduce republican violence.

Mr Barry said: "The best way to deal with Sinn Fein is to remove the crops they feed on. That is the alienation of the minority community. We have consistently resisted Sinn Fein since 1922. We will have nothing to do with Sinn Fein until they put down their guns."

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