By the early 1980s, “official circles” in London were beginning to believe Ian Paisley could prove to be a constructive force, the new Margaret Thatcher biography claims.
Author Charles Moore said there was a belief among some that the DUP leader — who had just topped the poll in the European elections — might be “more inclined to a deal than his granite rhetoric suggested”.
The attitude emerged as the former Prime Minister’s adviser on Northern Ireland, Airey Neave, promised then Ulster Unionist leader Jim Molyneaux that the Conservative Party would set up a regional council in Northern Ireland if it won the 1979 election.
But Mr Neave was murdered by the INLA before the pledge was made known to others.
In a note to Mrs Thatcher, her other most trusted aide, Ian Gow, wrote: “Airey told me nothing of any undertaking which had been given to Molyneaux.”
Unionists did not trust Thatcher after this suspected deception.