Declassified files: Paisley ‘wanted to get arms from Israelis’

Ian Paisley during the 1987 general election campaign
Ian Paisley during the 1987 general election campaign
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The Israeli ambassador to the UK claimed Ian Paisley had contacted him “to obtain arms”, Irish state papers have revealed.

In June 1985 Noel Dorr, Ireland’s ambassador in London, wrote a letter to his boss in Dublin on the conversation he had at a recent function.

“I expressed surprise at this since I thought it unlikely that Paisley would leave himself open on something like this,” Mr Dorr wrote.

The Israeli ambassador, Yahuda Avner, said Mr Paisley was talking about “border protection”.

“I said I presumed that the emphasis was on surveillance equipment rather than on arms but the ambassador did not elaborate further on the detail of the request,” Mr Dorr said.

“I would assume that what happened is that Paisley may have written to the Ambassador to seek a meeting in regard to ‘border protection’. The Ambassador possibly interpreted this general phrase as referring to weapons rather than technology.”

The ambassador told Mr Paisley that “these things” could only be dealt with between governments.

The claims have been vigorously denied by Mr Paisley’s son, Ian Jnr.

He said: “The claims being made that my father was involved in an attempt to obtain arms from Israel are absolute nonsense.

“The basis of a chat at a function, between officials – where drink was taken, who were hostile Irish government officials with their own prejudiced agenda, and were no official notes other than cloudy recollections – tells its own story.

“There is no doubt that given our poor border security in the 1980s ... that my father made it his business to highlight how other countries could protect themselves from border incursions such as Israel.

“He publicly and privately urged HMG to ‘up its game’ and protect our citizens. That is a very far stretch from an attempt to go about the private procurement of arms.

“Obviously it is easy to slander the dead. If my father was alive this story wouldn’t see the light of day.”