The old file which has been released records how the loyalist politician Hugh Smyth, who would go on to be leader of the UVF’s political party, the PUP, expressed far more moderate views that either the Ulster Unionists or the DUP.
At a meeting with Lord Lowry on January 20, 1976, Mr Smyth, above, said “he could see no objections to a couple of Catholics in the cabinet – where they would always be outvoted anyhow.
“His supporters on the Shankill Road took this view also. He wanted a devolved government and was prepared to pay the price by SDLP involvement.
“The alternative was protracted direct rule which would leave the place a political wilderness.”
Mr Smyth “attributed the intransigence of the UUUC entirely to Dr Paisley” who he claimed was opposed to devolved government because he would be an MP anyway.
He said that Dr Paisley “dominated Mr West and the Official Unionist members were afraid to differ from him in public”.
The minutes of a February 23, 1976 meeting between Lord Lowry and Secretary of State Merlyn Rees record that the Labour minister said that “the UUUC were in extremely ill-odour at Westminster. He felt he was in a stronger position than some months ago. He would be recommending that the British government should maintain the system of Direct Rule and would probably be supported in this.”
In a comment at the bottom of the minute, which came a week before the convention was dissolved, Dr Hayes wrote: “The meeting lasted about an hour. It was remarkable in that virtually no reference was made to the question of intervention which had been discussed at official level for some weeks.
“It also appeared that HMG did not have any policy to put in place of a failure of the Convention. The S of S also displayed a certain anxiety to be rid of the Convention Members...”