Northern Ireland

Files reveal Peter Robinson warned of war in 1981

Peter Robinson
Image caption Peter Robinson visited Stormont official Ewart Bell at his home to discuss the political situation

Peter Robinson believed a war could break out after the IRA murdered a unionist politician, government archives from 1981 have revealed.

The comment came in an account of a late-night conversation between the present first minister and Stormont official (later Sir) Ewart Bell.

South Belfast MP Rev Robert Bradford was shot dead in November 1981.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Robinson told Ewart Bell there could be "war" before Christmas

At a security meeting at Stormont Castle on 20 November, 1981, the official, Mr Bell, described how the then DUP deputy leader had called at his home on the previous evening to discuss the political situation.

According to a report in the file, Mr Robinson said he had come to talk to "a fellow Ulsterman who had the ear of those in authority".

He expressed his extreme concern about the mood of the Protestant people.

He saw the forthcoming DUP 'day of action' as a means of "letting off steam" but warned that "if he or one of his fellow politicians were murdered, the situation would boil over".

The DUP MP feared that the current Anglo-Irish talks meant that the British government was trying "to get rid of us by pushing us into an Irish Republic".

Image caption Sir Ewart Bell with Nelson Mandela at the '95 World Cup

Sir Ewart Bell said this allowed him to place the talks in their proper perspective, namely a more harmonious relationship to the mutual benefit of the two countries.

The official observed that Mr Robinson had floated whether "something less than power-sharing" in Northern Ireland might be considered compatible with a "triangular relationship".

On security, Mr Robinson suggested sealing off the border.

The Stormont official felt that, while deeply concerned about Protestant anger, Mr Robinson wished "to calm the situation and to find a way forward, hence his interest in the Anglo-Irish scene".

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