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1994 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with Albert Reynolds

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview with the Irish Prime Minister, Albert Reynolds, held on Friday 15th July 1994.


PRIME MINISTER JOHN MAJOR:

Let me just say a few words about our discussions this afternoon:

When the Taoiseach and I first met when he first became Taoiseach in 1992, we agreed to have regular meetings and more formal biannual bilaterals. In practice, we have met very frequently during that period.

When we met at Corfu a few weeks ago, we set in train a significant amount of work designed to complete a framework document; a lot of that work has been continuing. We took the opportunity of this unexpected summit today to meet and review that work. A substantial amount of progress has been made but there is self-evidently still some more work to do. We have commissioned some more work and we have decided that we will regroup again more formally in the early autumn - I can’t be precise as to the date at the moment - in order to carry that work forward so I would expect us to meet again in the early autumn and then again, of course, formally towards the end of the year.

PRIME MINISTER ALBERT REYNOLDS:

I agree with my colleague on that. We set out a lot of work the last time we met and a lot of that work has been completed; we have achieved quite considerable progress. We have set another programme of work today, we would like to make progress again and as soon as we have the work completed we will have a summit in early autumn. We didn't need a summit next week because we had the opportunity to complete what we would have done next week this week anyway so the unexpected summit called for Brussels today afforded us the opportunity to do our work that normally we would have had to meet next week to do.

QUESTION:

To what extent is the Irish constitutional claim to the North a sticking point?

PRIME MINISTER ALBERT REYNOLDS:

We are in very sensitive, complex areas on both sides here. What we are trying to achieve is a new beginning not just a patch job, not just something to put a bit of sticking plaster on. We are trying to find a new beginning, a way to stop the violence on both sides and that is not achievable as quickly as some people might think but we have made very considerable progress and both of us are confident that we will achieve enough progress to hold a summit in the early autumn.

QUESTION:

Is that the stumbling block as far as you are concerned, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER JOHN MAJOR:

There are a number of things that are still yet undetermined. If I look at where we are now and contemplate whether two years ago I would have imagined we would have reached the present circumstances, frankly I would not. The progress has been steady, perhaps sometimes unspectacular but it has been steady and it is continuing; that is still the case.

There are some more things to be determined. They are very sensitive issues, very complex issues, very deep-rooted problems. We are examining them one by one and as we solve them we move on to the next one. I would rather take that gently and get it right than rush it and get it wrong. There is a very great deal at stake.

QUESTION:

But are you both prepared to give ground, you, Prime Minister, on the Government of Ireland Act for example and you, Taoiseach, on the constitutional claim?

PRIME MINISTER JOHN MAJOR:

I think we will negotiate in private about things like that.

PRIME MINISTER ALBERT REYNOLDS:

We said in our Downing Street Declaration of December 15 that we would approach a balanced constitutionalist agreement and that is what we are engaged in.

QUESTION:

Can I ask you about the summit in general that you are coming to? Can you tell us whether you believe that Jacques Santer is a much better choice than Jean-Luc Dehaene would have been?

PRIME MINISTER JOHN MAJOR:

Yes I do. We will have the summit very shortly and I very much hope we will be able to reach a conclusion. I do believe that Jacques Santer would be acceptable to the heads of most governments, all governments I hope; from our point of view, he has a number of very positive virtues and I look forward to the discussion in a few moments.

QUESTION:

Some people say that he is not very exciting. Do you think that matters?

PRIME MINISTER JOHN MAJOR:

I think what matters is how competently and efficiently the new President is going to run the commission and take into account the interests of all the member nation states across the European Union.

I have worked with Jacques Santer on the European Council for a number of years, I know his virtues, I know his capacity to carry matters forward and carry them forward in a balanced way. I think that is what is necessary.

QUESTION:

Since you met at Corfu, there has been a development in relation to the repatriation of prisoners. Are there any other such initiatives planned by you and sought by you?

PRIME MINISTER JOHN MAJOR:

We are discussing a whole range of matters, some of them directly related to the talks we had this afternoon and other matters related to the security situation. I have said before and am happy to say again with the Taoiseach beside me that the degree of cooperation over security matters has improved beyond all measure over recent years and I think that is something that is welcome both sides of the border so there are matters like that under discussion, yes.

QUESTION:

Any new initiatives sought by you, Taoiseach?

PRIME MINISTER ALBERT REYNOLDS:

Not specific in that manner although we do continue every time we have a meeting to look at ways and means of improving the atmosphere between the two communities and creating an environment from which we hope that violence will be taken out at some stage sooner rather than later as far as both of us are concerned but the specifics of such we always keep to ourselves.