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1996 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Comments on Northern Ireland

Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep comments in Bangkok on Thursday 29th February 1996 on the subject of Northern Ireland.


[Mr Major was asked about how Sinn Fein could re-enter the peace process]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the choice now is with Sinn Fein. We have set out, with the Irish government, the way that we believe matters should now proceed. There is an option for Sinn Fein. They can decide that they are going to opt into the democratic process, call a ceasefire, meet with the other parties, decide to meet the Mitchell principles and deal with decommissioning, or they can decide to opt out of the democratic process. That is a choice for Sinn Fein and the IRA, they must make that choice, I cannot make it for them and neither can anyone else. But if they decide to opt out of the democratic process, they cannot stop it, it will proceed without them, and that position is now I think entirely clear. They must make their choice.

[Mr Major was asked about the IRA Army Council’s comments]

PRIME MINISTER:

From what I have heard of it thus far it seems, frankly, rather like a sick joke. For the last 25 years the IRA have murdered people, they have bombed people, they have knee-capped people, they have dealt with people in a quite disgusting and disgraceful way. And for them to claim that anybody is responsible for what has happened in Northern Ireland over the last 25 years, except them, will be received with incredulity by anyone who knows anything about Northern Ireland and by the people who have lived in Northern Ireland. I think most people will be fed up to the back teeth with these comments of this sort that we get so repeatedly from the IRA. It is time for them to realise that for 25 years they have behaved in an appalling fashion. Nobody is going to give way to them, not now, not in the future, not ever. They either decide to behave properly and get into democracy or democracy will go on without them. The sort of nonsense we had from them this evening is a pathetic response to the hopes and dreams of the people of Northern Ireland. They owe it to the people who live in Northern Ireland to make a proper response and they owe it to them to do it speedily.

[Mr Major was asked what he now wanted to hear from Sinn Fein]

PRIME MINISTER:

There is no doubt about the words everyone wants to hear. They want to say unequivocally, without any doubt at all, that they have given up violence and they have given up violence for good; that they are seeking to ensure that Sinn Fein becomes a properly democratic party with the same democratic rights and obligations of the other political parties, and it will then join in the democratic process. People have waited a quarter of a century to hear that from the IRA. I think they have waited long enough. The IRA had better tell us that is what they are going to do or the rest of Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom had better realise we have to proceed without them. The time for waiting is gone.