Paisley told Thatcher to challenge Reagan over IRA ruling in US

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Ian Paisley angered by US.
Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Ian Paisley angered by US.

Dr Ian Paisley asked the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to challenge the United States President Ronald Reagan over the referral by a North American court to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) as a “military organisation waging war against Britain.”

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader wrote to the Prime Minister on December 14, 1984, saying the finding compounded the US ban on selling arms to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

A newly-declassified letter from Dr Paisley shows that he wrote: “The finding by an American Court that the IRA being a military organisation and waging war against Britain must be recognised as such and its members on political grounds cannot therefore be extradited, raises serious questions of the United States sincerity in her fight against terrorism.”

He referred to the refusal by the United States to supply arms to the RUC, which he urged was “the legal police force of one of her closest allies.” He complained that the US decision gave “important and far reaching authority to the IRA terrorists.” Dr Paisley asked Mrs Thatcher to raise the matter with Mr Reagan at a meeting she was due to attend.

Meanwhile, an account of a meeting between the Secretary of State Douglas Hurd, Dr Paisley and Peter Robinson, which took place a few weeks earlier, reveals the Government was apparently dismayed at the DUP leader’s description of Roman Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor Cathal Daly as “the black Pope of republicanism.”

Mr Hurd’s Private Secretary wrote to Charles Powell, Margaret Thatcher’s top aide, about the meeting on November 28.

The Secretary of State hoped Mrs Thatcher’s torpedo to joint authority at the Anglo-Irish Summit over November 18-19 would facilitate “constructive political progress” by unionists. But according to the note Mr Hurd was disappointed by Dr Paisley’s attitude.

“He was rather dismayed by the triumphalism of Unionist reactions so far. He regretted the tone of Dr Paisley’s attack on Bishop Cathal Daly as the ‘black Pope of the republican movement.’

“He did nor agree with all that Bishop Daly himself had said, but felt that the intemperate tone of Dr Paisley’s attack sat oddly with his professed readiness to have constructive discussion with other partly leaders.”