Belfast Telegraph

Unionists feared talks between parties in 1993 were finished, document reveals

Sir Patrick Mayhew
Sir Patrick Mayhew

By David O'Dornan

A confidential report of a 45 minute "tete-a-tete" between Secretary of State Sir Patrick Mayhew and Tanaiste Dick Spring details unionists' fears that political talks were "finished".

The motive for the meeting, in January 1993, was a wish to resume the struggling talks.

Mr Spring invited Sir Patrick to describe the parties' attitude at that time.

"All had signed the November 16 statement," he was told, "but there had been some going off the boil since then."

A meeting of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in Dublin on November 16, 1992 had reviewed the procedures used in the political talks and favoured a bilateral approach.

The memo added: "The UUs wanted talks, but were being very cautious; (Jim) Molyneaux would take no risks before May 19. The Alliance were ready for talks at any time. The SDLP would also certainly take part."

The missive continued: "The Secretary of State went on that the UUs and the Alliance felt that they had to make all the concessions, and there had been no movement in return, either from the SDLP or from the Government over Articles 2 and 3.

Former Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring
Former Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring

"They were not far from despair over the prospects of resumption of talks. Molyneaux had said privately that the talks were finished, but the Secretary of State was not sure that was his real view, and (Ken) Maginnis had said in Parliament the previous day that the talks were exhausted. The Protestant paramilitaries were starting to step up their activities."

The note continued: "The DUs were unlikely to respond positively to an invitation; (Peter) Robinson had been disappointing.

"Mr Fell (from the NIO) noted that Robinson had failed to deliver (Ian) Paisley, but felt if the UUs had talks with the Irish Government, the DUs might be forced to reconsider."

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