Ian Paisley held secret talks with Gordon Brown
Prime Minister Gordon Brown was in secret dialogue with former DUP leader Ian Paisley throughout the Hillsborough Castle talks, it can be revealed.
Mr Paisley has confirmed this in a wide-ranging interview in the wake of his announcement that he is stepping down as North Antrim MP after 40 years.
He has also been speaking of the first time he said “hello” to Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams at Parliament Buildings.
Disclosing that the Prime Minister consulted him several times at critical points in the Hillsborough talks — unknown to DUP party colleagues — Mr Paisley said: “I hope that I was able to help all the people that were in the business.
“I think the fact that he felt that he wanted to consult with me, I was at least able to use my knowledge and put the case as I wanted it put.
“He didn't ask me to do anything. He said I want to consult with you, I want you to be perfectly open with me — as I know you will be.
“He said I cannot afford not to have your voice in this because he said we would never have been as far forward if you hadn't taken risks. You took risks, lost friends and he said I want you to be in the line when we are moving.”
It was reported at the time of Hillsborough that Gordon Brown was particularly worried about DUP MP Nigel Dodds — deemed by Government to have been allegedly reticent to buy into the package eventually agreed between Sinn Fein and the DUP.
Recalling that first engagement with Gerry Adams in March 2007, he stated: “The dramatic moment came really after they had signed. When we went into the room we didn't know if they were going to sign up.” He continued: “Afterwards I took him into a room. I said to him I have never spoken to you before and you have never spoken to me before.
“Looking at one and another, I said we can make a decision and the decision is very simple.
“You have signed up and you are going to oppose the terrorists which I am very happy about.”
Mr Paisley also said: “I said there are three things we can do.
“We can come in here, and row every day, tear down the blinds, kick the furniture, go out shouting and have hundreds of Press men having a riding of The Boyne with me every time.
“We can do that. I said it is going to get us nowhere for our people.
“I said the second way we could do it: we could take the things that we have agreement on, and we could work very hard at them so that the benefits would come down to the people and for the first time Ulster men would be helping the ordinary classes of this country. I said you are working class representatives and so am I, and I said there is not so much difference apart from religion between the two different tribes here and we should face up to that.
“I said there is another way. The other way is to try and work upon those parts that we think we could get agreement by consultation, by not pressing things that oppress others in their estimation. We decided we were going to concentrate on what was going best for our people and that was a moment of great joy in my heart that we were not going to waste our time fighting the battles that you fight at elections.”