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1995 - Mr Major’s Broadcast to the Nation on Northern Ireland

Below is the transcript of Mr Major’s broadcast to the nation on Wednesday 1st February 1995.


PRIME MINISTER:

Just over a year ago, the Irish Prime Minister and I signed the Downing Street Declaration.

In the months that followed, many wondered what it would achieve. Some attacked it.

But the Declaration led to a ceasefire. Five months ago, the IRA halted their operations. The Loyalists followed. This was not the result of secret deals. There were none. But there was a promise. It was a promise of fair treatment and a place in democratic politics for those who abandoned violence for ever.

Peace has been a tremendous blessing for Northern Ireland. People can lead normal lives. They can go out without a fear. Day by day the prospect of more jobs and more prosperity is becoming a reality.

My aim is a lasting peace. For the first time in 25 years, we have a real chance of achieving this. It should not be thrown away by fears that are unreal and accusations that are untrue.

For the past four years, we have been working for a fair and lasting settlement in Northern Ireland.

With the Northern Ireland parties, we have discussed possible new arrangements for Government within the Province.

We have searched for better relations between North and South.

We have worked for closer cooperation between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

We are now discussing proposals with the Irish Government, in what we call a Joint Framework Document.

These talks continue. I can't guarantee their success. But fears have been raised that the Document will be a blueprint to impose unity in all Ireland and a betrayal of the promises we have made.

Those fears are wrong. In every respect. And I want to explain why, because peace in Northern Ireland is too important to be put at risk.

Let me say to you tonight; nothing is going to be imposed on Northern Ireland. Peace cannot be secured by coercion. New arrangements will only work if they are agreed by the people of Northern Ireland - supported by them and operated by them.

What we are doing is developing proposals for them to consider and for their political representatives to discuss.

The Framework Document will be a consultation paper. Its sole purpose is to help the constitutional parties reach agreement.

But when they do, that will not be the end of the story. The outcome will be put to the people of Northern Ireland in a referendum.

If they believe the agreement is fair, if it respects their democratic rights, if it offers a peaceful future, they will vote for it. If not, they will reject it. But, in either event, their future will lie in their hands. And we will respect their decision.

As one element, we shall suggest areas for cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Cross-border cooperation is not a new idea.

People on both sides of the border and both sides of the community can see the sense in this.

But there is one crucial point. Any new North/South bodies must be accountable to the people of Northern Ireland. They will not be run by London, and they cannot and will not be overridden by the British and Irish Governments.

If there are people who don't want the talks to succeed, they should be clear about the consequences.

But I believe the people of Northern Ireland want a better future.

So let me address them directly:

The horrors of Enniskillen and Greysteel are behind you.

After five months of peace, surely it is time to look ahead.

Judge our proposals as a whole. There is nothing you need fear.

Northern Ireland has come a very long way since the Downing Street Declaration.

It must not drift backwards.

I wish to see this process succeed. Arms decommissioned. Talks going ahead.

Every honourable avenue to a settlement explored. Then the outcome put to the people.

For it is up to the people of Northern Ireland to decide whether fear can given way to hope.

The Government is working for a peaceful future in Northern Ireland.

Tonight, I ask for time.

And I ask for trust.

And I promise to pursue - a lasting peace.