Belfast Telegraph

State papers: Israelis thought Paisley wanted arms to protect border

Misunderstanding: Ian Paisley
Misunderstanding: Ian Paisley

By Ralph Riegel

Israel mistakenly thought the late Ian Paisley wanted to import arms into Northern Ireland in the 1980s as IRA violence escalated following the delivery of weapons from Libya.

A confidential report from the Irish Embassy in London highlighted what diplomats believed was a misunderstanding by Israeli officials of the DUP leaders intentions for Northern Ireland.

The secret briefing, sent to the Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs by the country's ambassador to the UK Noel Dorr, outlined a bizarre conversation he had with senior Israeli officials.

"He (the Israeli Ambassador) said that Rev Ian Paisley had been in touch with him to obtain arms," Mr Dorr wrote.

"I expressed surprise at this since I thought it unlikely that Paisley would leave himself open on something like this.

"The ambassador said the request related to border protection. I said I presumed that the emphasis was on surveillance equipment rather than on arms but the ambassador did not elaborate further. He said he had replied to Paisley that these things could be dealt with only between governments."

Mr Dorr said he presumed Rev Paisley - later Lord Bannside - may have raised concerns about border protection issues.

Rev Paisley may have felt the Israelis, given their security expertise, might be in a position to help. But he said the Israelis "possibly interpreted this general phrase as referring to weapons rather than technology".

In a statement, Lord Bannside's son - North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley - rejected any insinuation his father had been involved in trying to buy weapons.

"The claims being made by the Press that my father was involved in an attempt to obtain arms from Israel are absolute nonsense," he said.

"The basis of a chat at a function between officials - where drink was taken - who were hostile Irish Government officials with their own prejudiced agenda, and where there are no official notes other than cloudy recollections - tells its own story. There is no doubt that given our poor border security in the 1980s, especially following the Tynan Abbey murders, my father made it his business to highlight how other countries could protect themselves from border incursions, such as Israel

"He publicly and privately urged HMG to up its game and protect our citizens. That is a very far stretch from an attempt to go about the private procurement of arms. Obviously, it is easily to slander the dead. If my father was alive this story wouldn't see the light of day."

Belfast Telegraph


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