Jeremy Paxman has revealed how the wife of a well-known MP once tried to seduce him in the Europa Hotel when he was a young BBC reporter in Belfast.
The former Newsnight presenter also tells of death threats and of being offered a puppy by Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams, in his newly published autobiography.
Writing of his time in Belfast from 1974 to 1977, he recalls how the ‘ugly’ Europa Hotel stayed in business throughout the Troubles.
He writes: “At the top of the hotel was a discotheque decorated with ‘Penthouse Poppets’, ersatz Playboy girls with bunny ears and east Belfast accents, where the wife of a well known MP once tried to seduce me.”
But Paxman declines to give his readers any further details on the MP or the woman.
In his book A Life In Questions, he tells of receiving death threats and having a run-in with a pair of paramilitary thugs.
“Twice I took telephone calls from people threatening to kill me: I was scared, but I had no way of knowing whether the menaces were genuine or just the product of too much Guinness.
“Once I was put up against a wall by a couple of thugs: I was terrified, but mercifully someone more senior in the organisation told them to lay off.”
He also writes: “I was scared by this squalid little war, and uneasy about more or less everything else to do with Northern Ireland... with its own odd politics and politicians (most of whom were appalling).
“To be sent on a winter’s night into a west Belfast estate like Ballymurphy with an English accent was a very scary experience.”
Mr Paxman said he was told he was “on a list” after a report he made was used as evidence in a case against Gerry Adams
When he arrived in Belfast as a 23-year-old in 1974, he lived in a bed and breakfast just off the loyalist Sandy Row which served a “mountainous Ulster fry breakfast swimming in grease”.
He also recalls a bizarre encounter with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in Belfast.
“One Saturday morning, after an interview in Belfast, I told him I had to get going, because we were picking up a puppy that afternoon. ‘You should have told me,’ he (Adams) said. ‘Our dog’s just had pups. You could have had one of them’.”
Mr Paxman also hits out at the attitude of BBC Northern Ireland at the time, which he said backed the unionist establishment.
“In the context of a divided island, that meant it upheld the status quo, reported the processions of drum-banging Protestant supremacists every 12 July as a joyous celebration of a blessed history, and had plenty of staff who saw the civil rights marches in 1968 as a threat to everything they held dear.”