The UUP leader told Prime Minister John Major in 1996 that he believed the decision to allow Ian Paisley to stand for election to the Northern Ireland Forum “could cost the UUP between 3 and 5 per cent of their share of the vote.
“The ballot paper was in general likely to be confusing, and Paisley’s name would be one of the few clear things on it. It was clear that this was a deliberate attempt by the Catholic electoral officer to arrange things so that the SDLP would come top in the polls.
“That concerned him less than the possibility of the UUP doing relatively badly and Paisley doing relatively well.
“That could only make life more difficult in the negotiations, for example over issues like decommissioning. The UUP had thought of challenging the decision in law but had decided that it would only suit Paisley to be made a martyr.”
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Mr Trimble also said that “the SDLP would do well because the Catholic church would pull out all the stops as they had done on previous occasions”.
According to the minute of the meeting, Mr Trimble also commented that SDLP MP Seamus Mallon’s “current illness was unfortunate” because he said that “his style was adversarial but at least straight”. By contrast, he said that “dealing with [John] Hume was like grappling with fog”.