Declassified Files: SDLP MP told of ‘golden moments’ with Paisley

DUP leader Ian Paisley
DUP leader Ian Paisley

Although the tentative political ‘talks about talks’ and then talks between the parties in the early 1990s did not bear fruit, there is evidence of some lasting impressions from the processes.

In a confidential letter to the Prime Minister on 2 July 1991, the then Secretary of State, Peter Brooke, alerted John Major to the suspension of the talks, which he would announce the following day.

In the two-page document outlining a stalling in what would go on to become the lengthy peace process (though it did not publicly involve Sinn Fein at that point), Mr Brooke wrote: “As it is, the general mood among the parties is positive. The plenary exchanges have produced some moments of genuine political dialogue.

“Mr [Seamus] Mallon of the SDLP has described them as ‘golden moments’ and Dr Paisley told me that they were ‘the best conversations he has ever had’ with nationalist representatives.”

Elsewhere, the files make clear that SDLP leader John Hume and Dr Paisley remained in frequent contact.