Page last updated at 22:04 GMT, Monday, 29 December 2008

Paisley power sharing prediction

Dr Eamon Phoenix reveals some of the details contained in classified government files released on Tuesday under the 30 year rule.


Files predict Paisley deal with nationalists

Ian Paisley
An official said it was possible Ian Paisley would agree to power sharing

The possibility of DUP leader Ian Paisley agreeing to share power with nationalists at some point is highlighted in confidential government documents released on Tuesday.

The comments were contained in a memo on 'Political Strategy' by a senior official, Kay Kirby.

The memo was dated 29 October 1976, but has just been released under the 30 year rule.

Reviewing the political landscape in the wake of the collapse of the 1974 power-sharing experiment, Ms Kirby notes: "It is not inconceivable that Paisley would seek a political accommodation with the SDLP if he felt his position to be unassailable."


Butter ban amid explosives fear

The background to the discovery of 33 sticks of gelignite by the authorities at Crumlin Road prison in Belfast in 1977 is revealed in a previously classified file.

The gelignite and detonators, believed to have been intended for use in a mass break-out attempt from the prison, were discovered in C Wing on 4 July, 1977.

According to a note in the file, the explosives were found in the possession of republican remand prisoners.

Crumlin Road prison
Gelignite and detonators were hidden in butter and toothpaste

The report states: "We believe that the gelignite was smuggled into the prison concealed in packs of butter and the detonators in tubes of toothpaste."

As a result Prisons Minister Don Concannon agreed that butter and toothpaste would be prohibited from prisoners' food parcels.


Government's stance against selection at 11

Details of a debate over how to reform education, including whether or not there should be academic selection for 11-year-olds, is contained in the newly released files.

The proposed abolition of the 11-Plus and the restructuring of secondary education dominated a meeting of the Policy Coordinating Committee at Stormont on 1 March, 1978.

Mr A Brooke reported to the meeting the views of Education Minister Lord Melchett.

The government, he said, was not seeking a confrontation on this issue and believed that it would be better not to act precipitously.

The government, the official continued, had laid down only one condition, that there should not be selection at 11.

The question of selection at a later age had not been ruled out.


'Reassurance' given on De Lorean investment

The origins of the ill-fated De Lorean car company in west Belfast are charted in the confidential files released on Tuesday.

In June 1978, Junior NIO Minister for Employment Don Concannon visited New York to promote inward investment in Northern Ireland.

A document in the file records that on 22 June, the minister met John De Lorean and colleagues at the Drake Hotel to discuss the offer of assistance which the NI Department of Commerce had made to him on 20 June in Belfast.

The memo reads: "Further reassurance was given with regard to certain aspects of the project."

De Lorean
John De Lorean's company received 77m of government money

That afternoon the minister is recorded as visiting the General Motors Corporation in New York where he was shown model cars and seatbelts of the type to be manufactured in the new General Motors plant in Belfast.

In an address to business executives in the city, Mr Concannon claimed that Northern Ireland was moving beyond the Troubles.

On the industrial front there had been several success stories.

AVX Corporation of New York had announced the establishment of an electronics factory with 600 jobs while General Motors had decided to set up a seatbelt factory employing 600 people.

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