Declassified files: Paisley’s ‘difficulty’ persuading DUP councillors

Ian Paisley's DUP agreed a joint policy with the UUP
Ian Paisley's DUP agreed a joint policy with the UUP

Although the DUP leadership exercised huge control over the party, there were suggestions that Ian Paisley and Peter Robinson could not always bring their councillors along with them.

A confidential January 1987 memo from JE McConnell in the NIO’s political affairs division related the details of a lunch with an unnamed “senior UUP councillor”, and seemed to draw on other sources of information.

Mr McConnell was told that UUP leader Jim Molyneaux had addressed a meeting of his councillors on January 19 “with the purpose of persuading them to fall into line with a policy which he had agreed jointly with Dr Paisley”.

The file, which has been released at the Public Record Office in Belfast under the 20/30 year rule, went on: “My contact tells me that it was clear that Mr Molyneaux was unaware that the DUP was having difficulties in having the same policy passed by their councillors at a separate meeting on the same night.”

It went on: “This contact believes there is considerable confusion in DUP circles in that neither Mr Paisley nor Mr Robinson could persuade their councillors to take the common line they had agreed with Mr Molyneaux.

“There is evidence to suggest that almost all DUP councillors have written letters resigning from quangos [as part of the Anglo-Irish Agreement protest] and handed them to Dr Paisley (rumour has it that there are about four who have not done so) but it seems that the main body of DUP councillors wish to carry on with the adjournment policies on councils regardless of the consequences.

“I understand that Jim Allister played a prominent part in this action.”