Ian Paisley expressed concern that if he was ousted as DUP leader his replacement would be more hard line.
A 31 October 1986 memo from Sir Ken Bloomfield recounted a conversation with Sir John [also known as Jack] Swinson, who had been asked by a small group consisting of IDB chairman Eric McDowell, LEDU chairman Rowan Hamilton and John Spence to explore with party leaders the possibility of “movement towards political dialogue” to break the deadlock of the post-Agreement period.
As part of that, he had met Dr Paisley in the DUP leader’s home.
The memo records: “Dr Paisley said that a large part of the problem was that Mr Hume was ‘a prisoner in his own cage’ (and Sir Jack was quite clear that this was a reference to the influence of Mr Mallon within the SDLP).
“He had to accept that he was in a somewhat similar position himself. Realistically any progress would have to be on the basis of a deal which would certainly not go down well with all of his own supporters. He was currently extremely fearful that if he were to be ousted or John Hume were to be ousted their replacements would be quite unwilling to contemplate any settlement in any circumstances,”
During the meeting, Dr Paisley expressed more pragmatic views than those which he was expressing publicly at that point.
According to the document, “Dr Paisley said that he might have to recognise that the Agreement would have to be ‘renegotiated’ rather than overturned”.