Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference visiting Enniskillen (Ian Paisley "a rather desperate man")

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh
Source: Belfast Telegraph, 6 March 1981
Journalist: Robin Morton, Belfast Telegraph, reporting
Editorial comments: Afternoon. Exact time and place unknown.The Belfast News Letter has additional material. Asked whether Mr Haughey was the kind of man she could reach agreement with, MT replied: "I do not discuss personalities". "She said that the talks [with the Republic] were going ahead against the background of Ulster’s existing constitutional framework, which Mr Haughey accepted. It was possible to talk about the "totality of relationships" without talking about constitutional issues" (7 March 1981).
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 654
Themes: Defence (general), Northern Ireland, Terrorism

Paisley desperate man, says Thatcher

Mrs. Thatcher dubbed the Rev. Ian Paisley “a desperate man” at a Press conference which ended her 24-hour visit to Northern Ireland.

The PM, pressed for her reaction to the DUP leader's accusation that she was lying, said remarks such as those a flected more on the person who made them than the person at whom they were directed.

Asked about Mr. Paisley 's protest in which he handed in a letter at Hillsborough early on Friday, Mrs. Thatcher said:

“I think it was ridiculous and the actions of a rather desperate man.”

Speaking in Enniskillen, the PM reiterated that Northern Ireland's constitutional position was guaranteed and accused Mr. Paisley of raising unnecessary fears.

She stressed: “There is no plot, no sellout. The position on the Constitution remains the same.”

But Mrs. Thatcher still refused to elaborate on the precise details of the joint studies between Dublin and London set up after the Dublin summit.

She declared they were exploratory and that no conclusions had been reached, and said Ulster's constitution was not being discussed.

“I shall not be intimidated from carying on talks with our neighbours, the Republic of Ireland, by threats,” she added.

Mrs. Thatcher said the people of the UK and the Republic should try to live in peace and friendship because the Republic was the only country with which the UK shared a land border.

The talks, she said, were going ahead against the background of the existing constitutional framework, which Mr. Haughey accepted.

Asked about the possibility of a defence pact between the UK and the Republic, she said that this was not being discussed.

Such an issue, said the PM, would be a matter for NATO—it was not a bilateral question.

Mrs. Thatcher said the vast majority of Ulster people accepted her assurances on the constitutional guarantee, but admitted they needed such assurances “a little more often.”

Questioned on the new hunger strike Mrs. Thatcher made it clear there would be no political status.

The strike, she added, would achieve nothing but she hoped it would not lead to more violence.

But Mr. Paisley was unrepentant and he warned that the PM was heading for a confrontation with Ulster people.

He claimed that despite denials the Dublin-London talks were in fact discussed by Mrs. Thatcher and President Reagan in the overall context of Western defence.

The letter handed in by the DUP leader had accused Mrs. Thatcher of coming to the province to deceive people.

Mr. Paisley said the PM had preffered “an abundance of empty assurances” in her Thursday night speech.

Other politicians continued to react to Mrs. Thatcher's speech.

Mr. Michael Canavan, the SDLP law and order spokesman, said he welcomed the PM's “specific acknowledgment” that the community was under assault from loyalist as well as republican terrorists.

He said: “Mrs. Thatcher's commitment to the strict rule of law is crucial to encouraging support for the forces of law and order.

“However, the universal application of the law is presently being contradicted by the unique immunity of the UDA from proscription in spite of its appalling record.”

Mr. Edgar Graham, chairman of the Ulster Young Unionist Council, said the PM's Stormont speech had called the DUP bluff.

He said the DUP leader's behaviour at the Europa Hotel had been deplorable and said it had unnecessarily tied up the security forces whose time would better be spent fighting the IRA.

More criticism of DUP fracas came from Castlereagh Association of the Alliance Party.

The chairman, Mr. Hugh Thompson, said the DUP was obviously prepared to use force where it could not achieve its ends by strength of voting.