BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 January 2008, 07:52 GMT
Paisley denies talks concessions
Ian Paisley Junior
Ian Paisley Junior said the DUP did not use the matters as leverage
Ian Paisley Jr of the DUP was given a letter by a government minister promising concessions on constituency issues during St Andrew's talks.

But he said it was a "lie" to say such matters formed part of the talks.

The list, which included the Giant's Causeway project, was disclosed in a letter from then direct rule minister David Hanson to Mr Paisley.

It was made public by Traditional Unionist MEP Jim Allister under the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr Allister accused Mr Paisley of "wasting valuable leverage on securing concessions from the prime minister no less, not on matters of importance to unionists, but on issues of mere commercial or constituency import".

'Concerning'

Sinn Fein North Antrim assembly member Daithi McKay said people "would be shocked that Ian Paisley Jr has brought his shopping list into the St Andrews negotiations".

"But more concerning is that of all the items on this shopping list, a third of them are in one way and another connected to a private developer who caused Mr Paisley so many problems last year," he said.

The letter, dated 13 October 2006, the last day of the St Andrew's negotiations aimed at reviving devolution, listed six requests by Ian Paisley Jnr.

Giant's Causeway
The Giant's Causeway is Northern Ireland's top tourist attraction

Mr Hanson said the then prime minister Tony Blair had "considered the requests and has agreed the government should try to respond positively".

Topping the list was 1m in funding over seven years for the North West 200, followed by planning approval for a spa including 200 homes.

Also on the list was the Giant's Causeway project and it was suggested private sector land should be included in its development.

The letter also suggested dropping a judicial review of lands in Ballee.

The BBC reported in December that the case was settled after devolution in July.

The land is about to be sold by the Department of Social Development, for about 50m in a deal that involves a range of business interests, including those of Seymour Sweeney.

Seymour Sweeney
Seymour Sweeney is seeking to build at the Giant's Causeway

Mr Sweeney, a member of the DUP, is also the private developer seeking to build a new visitor's centre at the Giant's Causeway.

Mr Paisley later told the BBC that he was sorry if his actions had caused embarrassment to his party, but stressed that he had done nothing wrong.

In a statement, he also said: "It is now well known that on the margins of the St Andrew's talks, I took the opportunity with NIO ministers to raise a number of outstanding constituency cases, including financial support for the NW 200, planning in Ballymena, the Giant's Causeway and the Ballee lands tribunal case.

"The DUP at no time used any of these matters as leverage in the negotiations.

"They were not raised by, or with, the party, nor were they included on any shopping list considered and approved by the party."

He added: "The fact that Jim Allister chooses to make an issue of this at the time of a by-election in Dromore highlights the poverty of his activities."

The Northern Ireland Office said a number of issues were raised with the government in the margins of the St Andrew's talks "that were not connected to the negotiations and, as is the usual practice, were taken away for consideration".



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Ian Paisley Jr and Jim Allister speaking to BBC Newsline



RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific