JOHN MAJOR stepped up his efforts to calm Unionists last night by telling Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, that he would have 'kicked over the housetops' a leaked Dublin document on Northern Ireland.
The draft document has provoked Unionists by proposing that any political settlement should include British recognition of the 'value of the goal of Irish unity'.
Mr Major repeated to Mr Paisley at a Downing Street meeting that there would be 'no secret deals', and the Government would 'stand by the democratic wishes of the people of Northern Ireland'. Mr Paisley said: 'I liked his language tonight. That's good Ulster stuff.'
Mr Paisley did not rule out rejoining talks limited to negotiations on a new internal assembly for Northern Ireland - of the sort advocated by James Molyneaux, leader of the Ulster Unionists in the Commons on Tuesday, though he said that the DUP would insist any outcome be put to a referendum in the province.
Sir Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said after the meeting that Mr Major had made it clear the talks process showed 'real signs of being valuable'. He added: 'I hope I am not being unduly optimistic . . . if I say that we got the impression that we need not necessarily look forward to an empty chair for ever.'
Sir Patrick kept alive hopes of progress at the planned Anglo-Irish summit by saying that 'we are well past the overture' in discussions on the removal of the Irish constitution's claim to sovereignty over Northern Ireland.
Dick Spring, the Irish foreign affairs minister, called in the Gardai last night to investigate the leaking last week of a confidential departmental position paper to a Dublin newspaper.
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