Former SDLP Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon has said that he has “more in common with my fellow Loyalist than I have with someone from say, Cork or Kerry”.
In an in-depth interview with RTE to be broadcast tonight on RTE One, Mr Mallon also speaks of his oft-stormy relationship with then-First Minister David Trimble.
He said: “With David Trimble it was a roller-coaster ride,” adding that he was a “highly-intelligent man, under tremendous pressure politically”.
He described Lord Trimble as “a man of great potential badly treated by his own party and badly treated by the unionist community”.
The profile of the 77-year-old spoke with disdain about IRA members who were “cowards”.
Recalling death threats which he received from the IRA, he said: “I know those guys and in their hearts they are cowards.
“They would have shot some creature who had no voice. But the irony of it is, every time I went to a police station in those days was to make representations of behalf of one of their organisations who had been lifted, arrested or ill-treated.”
He added; “I don’t concede Irish Republicanism to Sinn Féin or the IRA. When we [the SDLP] entered into discussions with Sinn Féin, we handed the baton on…it was a big sacrifice to make and not be reciprocated.”
Mr Mallon also spoke with candour about SDLP founder John Hume: “John was a remarkable genius: very talented, very able…[but] never wanted to let the right hand know what the left was doing, not to talk of letting anybody in his party know…”
Recalling his childhood, he said: “You knew you were different. It was no place for us. My memories are of myself and my sister peeping out the window and watching a drumming march right in front of our house…the sounds of war…”
He said that “the North of Ireland is a political contrivance…you have two power blocks and their objectives are to look after their own”.
* For the Record: Seamus Mallon will be broadcast at 10.35pm on RTE One tomorrow (Thursday) night