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1994 - Joint Doorstep Interview with Sir Patrick Mayhew and James Molyneaux

Below is the text of the joint doorstep interview with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew, and the Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Sir James Molyneaux, given outside 10 Downing Street on Wednesday 31st August 1994.


[some sections were inaudible and are marked with ...]

MR. MOLYNEAUX:

I retain my view which I think is broadly reflected by the ... which put together the Declaration, that is the two governments plus the American Administration plus Mr. Hume for example, that there has to be a total permanent cessation of violence and that is set out very clearly and very concisely in paragraph 10 of the Declaration.

As I said to you earlier, I am very glad that there has been a halt to the killing in Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom and I hope that those who have influence with the IRA will now be able to persuade them to take the next decisive step and make the halt permanent - that is a very simple operation.

QUESTION:

... the word "permanent" written into the statement?

MR. MOLYNEAUX:

The Declaration made that the key, it made it the trigger for the entry into the exploratory discussions and the countdown thereto so I am sure, as I say, that those who have influence with Sinn Fein/IRA will persuade them to take that second step because quite clearly they haven't felt able to take it today.

QUESTION:

Mr. Molyneaux, is it your view that the 90-day clock cannot start running yet and is that view shared inside No. 10?

MR. MOLYNEAUX:

They will speak for themselves but after all they signed the Declaration, I didn't, contrary to what people said at the time; the two governments signed it, it was a joint product and they knew what they were doing when they worded paragraph 10 which said hat there had to be not only a permanent cessation of violence but there had to be a repudiation of violence and from that would follow the period of cooling-off - somebody at an earlier stage said "decontamination period", actually a Dublin minister - and at that stage then there would be exploratory discussions with Sinn Fein/IRA as to how they could enter the democratic process.

Of course, we shouldn't forget that they are not excluded from the democratic process because as you know they have a considerable number of councillors in the councils in Northern Ireland and you will also remember that they fielded candidates for Jim Prior's 4-year Assembly, they got elected to that body but like the SDLP they boycotted it and didn't take their seats.

QUESTION:

Can we be quite clear that as far as you are concerned the 90-day clock does not start running from today?

MR. MOLYNEAUX:

That is correct because Mr. Hume would claim to be one of the joint authors of the Declaration and as Mr. Hume is a very close buddy of Mr. Adams, he will have explained precisely to him what paragraph 10 means and what is required of Mr. Adams and what is required of the IRA, namely a permanent cessation of violence and as I say, I am not making that demand today, I am simply saying that it be done today and simply saying that those who have influence with the IRA I hope will be able to persuade them to take that second modest but very vital step in the very near future because that will be for the good of all of us including themselves.

QUESTION:

... by saying they have not to use the word "permanent"?

MR. MOLYNEAUX:

I am not singling out words, I am simply saying that they meet a requirement which is not present today. It is a cessation of hostilities, that is all it is, that is not convincing, that is the problem and I think any fair-minded person would recognise that it is inadequate as it stands.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible but regarding British Government's position]

MR. MOLYNEAUX:

They will be making their position clear but I think you, ladies and gentlemen, listened to the Prime Minister at an earlier stage. I didn't hear what he said but my secretary did hear and it wasn’t very different, I think, from what I had been saying before he made the statement.

I don't think we are that far apart nor do I think the Irish Government is that far apart and I know for a fact - and it had better now be mentioned this point - that the White House is not very far apart from what I have just said because I had a telephone conversation with them this afternoon about thirty minutes before I came here so they are broadly in line with the attitude I have been taking.

QUESTION:

Mr. Adams this afternoon was saying that the onus is now on the Prime Minister to seize the moment but from you are saying obviously that is not your view?

MR. MOLYNEAUX:

No, the onus can't possibly be on the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister set out the Declaration and paragraph 10 with Mr. Reynolds, they stood on the steps behind me here when they made that statement and nobody quarrelled with them at that time, nobody said: "Well, you should go out now and take the initiative!" The initiative was taken; in the minds of a good many people in Northern Ireland it was too generous an initiative but it was taken, it was there, fair 'does' for everybody and it is up to, as I say, particularly those who would claim to have influence and those who have influence with the IRA to be the persuaders.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

MR. MOLYNEAUX:

My message would be what it has consistently been, that there is no justification or excuse for violence on the part of anyone and the Loyalist paramilitaries clearly understand my position; they have been making statements which are moving towards the position which we would all like to see them adopting but that is for them to decide, it is not for me to bully them into it.

QUESTION:

Did you get an assurance from Mr. Major that the London and Dublin governments will press the IRA now to hand over their arms as well as declaring a cessation of violence because presumably if it is permanent cessation of violence those arms will not be required?

MR. MOLYNEAUX:

It wasn't a matter we were dealing with today because we had more immediate matters on our hands but that is the natural outcome. In the interests of internal discipline - if you could call it that - within any armed body if decisions are going to be implemented it is in their own interests that they should surrender arms and they shouldn't be left lying about because we have had far too many accidental casualties.

QUESTION:

Would you expect the IRA to take this step publicly by saying it is permanent, not by private communication with the British Government?

MR. MOLYNEAUX:

I am simply saying that they can because they will be asked by and your opposite numbers in Dublin no doubt exactly what the meaning of their statement is and they will be asked if it is in conformity with the Declaration and I hope that they will feel that they can take that not unreasonable step and say: "Right! We are not playing with words, we are simply saying that the armed struggle is over for good; this is a permanent end to violence!"

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

MR. MOLYNEAUX:

I did say when I was in America to your colleagues over there at the press conference that the ice, was beginning to crack up and that the violence could happen [cease?] somewhere within the next two years, that was in the month of April because I had that instinct and I still have that.

QUESTION:

If the cessation of violence is permanent, how long do you think it will last?

MR. MOLYNEAUX:

I have no idea but there would be a hideous risk of course to life in Northern Ireland if it were only a halt or a cessation so therefore the security forces and the chiefs of the security forces - both the RUC and the GUC - have a bounden duty to do two things: to ensure that the civilian population in Northern Ireland is not put at the risk of a sudden upsurge, a sudden mass attack by armed forces in Northern Ireland and secondly, those two commanders have a duty to their own men in both the Army and the RUC and other ancillary bodies to ensure that they are not caught in some sudden outburst of violence which could be very deadly indeed so that is why I think that it will be clearly understood by all reasonable people that there has got to be a permanence about this operation and a gradual scaling down after the permanency is demonstrated and achieved.

SIR PATRICK MAYHEW:

I would just like to say before I cross over to Northern Ireland that the Prime Minister has had the latest of a series of very useful discussions which are frequently held between him and Mr. Molyneaux.

It was recognised at once that there was absolutely no question there having been any kind of private understanding or secret deal between Her Majesty's Government and Sinn Fein that led to the statement that has been made today, that was accepted as being self-evident. It was also similarly accepted as being self-evident that there has been no weakening or dilution or adjustment in any way of any kind to the constitutional guarantee which the Government has over so many years maintained that there will be no change to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom except with the consent of the greater number of people living in Northern Ireland, something which is written into the Joint Declaration made between the two governments for example in December last year and it therefore follows that the greater part of the conversation centred upon the important statement made by Mr. Adams in Dublin today and there was naturally enough a welcome that after so long there is from midnight tonight to be no more murdering and bombing and maiming and violence generally; that naturally is a matter to be welcomed very much.

However, it was equally obvious as the Prime Minister's own statement issued shortly before one o'clock this afternoon made clear, that the word "permanent" didn't feature in the statement that was issued by Mr. Adams and I think everybody will remember that the Irish Government, the British Government with the approval of Mr. Hume and the American Government as well has expressed its approval for this, all of them had insisted that before the entry process into the talks process could begin for Sinn Fein as an elected mandated political party there had first of all to be a permanent end to violence, a renunciation of violence and a permanent renunciation of the support for violence.

It may very well be that that is the intention of the statement that has been issued by Mr. Adams today but it will be recalled that what he said was there had been ordered as from midnight tonight a complete cessation of military operations as they put ii. and the Prime Minister's statement this afternoon just before one o'clock drew attention to the fact that they had declared a complete cessation of violence but went on to say that it needed to be made clear that this was indeed intended to mean that it was over permanency, that is to say for good. I understand that there are some who say that if you look at the whole body of that statement issued by Mr. Adams that that is the intention but this is so important a matter that the Prime Minister and we believe that it ought not to be left at large or able to be the subject of discussion and argument and if indeed that is the intention it is surely the simplest thing in the world for it to be made clear that that is indeed the intention, that it is over for good.

This is not just a piece of pleasantry or nit-picking about a particular word. What lies behind it is the absolute essential importance that such talks and negotiations as may take place in future shall not take place under the implied threat that violence which after all has gone on for so long could be taken up again and resumed if people didn't behave during those discussions in a way that was congenial to the IRA.

That is what it is about and I very much hope that it is the case that the intention is that it is over for good. The Prime Minister feels and we all feel very firmly that this is something that does have to be put beyond doubt. It is a very simple matter to do and we hope that it will take place, that it will be done very quickly whereupon the British Government naturally enough will start to put in place the time-scale that has already been made public about the approach to preliminary talks and so on.

QUESTION:

Can I be very clear about that last sentence you just uttered. Are you saying, therefore, that the 90-day clock cannot start to run until the IRA makes clear that it is permanent, makes that statement about permanence?

SIR PATRICK MAYHEW:

It couldn't possibly start to run until midnight tonight because violence is said to be at an end only from midnight tonight.

There is plenty of time to make that clear before midnight tonight but it should be made clear.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

SIR PATRICK MAYHEW:

The Prime Minister has interpreted that in the statement that he issued just before lunchtime today as an end to violence, a complete cessation of violence and of course that should include violence of all kinds not just the hideous abuses that have gone in the form of bombing but things such as punishments, shootings and the like, they are all to be included.

QUESTION:

Is it true to say that the clock can't start running until the IRA has specifically said that it renounces violence permanently and used the word?

SIR PATRICK MAYHEW:

It does have to be made clear before the British Government considers that the time-scale to which it is committed in public statements and most recently the commentary that it made to the twenty questions put to it in May, it does have to be made clear first that this is intended to be, as it may very well be, a permanent ending of violence, that is to say for good. Once that is done, then that process begins.

QUESTION:

Have you communicated this message through any channel directly to Sinn Fein or the Provisional IRA?

SIR PATRICK MAYHEW:

No.

QUESTION:

Will it have to be a statement by Mr. Adams of the same nature as the statement we had earlier today and as a follow-up question can I ask you at what stage will the British Government withdraw the broadcasting ban on Sinn Fein?

SIR PATRICK MAYHEW:

It doesn't have to be made clear in any formal way in any particular format; it just has to be expressed in a means that leave ordinary people let alone governments satisfied that that which the two governments have said will be an essential before the talks process and entry into the talks process can begin, for it to be made clear in whatever form is sufficient to make it perfectly clear to the everyday people that that actually is what is intended to be delivered and of course, as we made clear in the commentary to the twenty questions in May, after the word there does have to follow a period of what I might call conduct, deed, behaviour, whatever you like to call it, that is consistent with the word and then within three months we are into the preliminary talks which we are committed to.

QUESTION:

Will the broadcasting ban go during the three months or only at the end of it?

SIR PATRICK MAYHEW:

Everything will be considered step-by--step in the light of prevailing circumstances.

QUESTION:

If over the next three months the IRA fires not a single shot, sets not a single bomb, is this what the British Government intends?

PATRICK MAYHEW:

The British Government's position has been made very clear long before now that once there is a permanent renunciation of the use of violence and a permanent renunciation of the justification or support for violence then within three months the British Government will be prepared to enter into preliminary discussions on three topics: how they can be brought into a democratic process; how they can ultimately come into the talks process, matters of that kind; and lastly, what are the practical consequences that would flow from such a permanent renunciation. I am not going to be led into specific detail which would be hypothetical at the most.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

SIR PATRICK MAYHEW:

The last question was do I intend to seek clarification and I said you could put it like that.

QUESTION:

Are you prepared to lift the broadcasting ban so Mr. Adams can explain himself?

SIR PATRICK MAYHEW:

Our position is unchanged on the broadcasting ban. It is kept under continuous review in the light of changing circumstances. I don't wish to say more than that. It doesn't rest with me anyway, it rests with the Heritage Secretary.