Below is the text of the Government Street on Northern Ireland, issued by 10 Downing Street on 27th November 1996.
GOVERNMENT STATEMENT ON NORTHERN IRELAND:
The Government wishes to set out the facts about recent contacts with John Hume and explain its position on the possibility of a new IRA ceasefire.
Mr. Hume has suggested to the Prime Minister over the last few months that a new
IRA ceasefire, which would in his view this time become permanent, is available if
the Government clarifies its position on various issues, including the nature of
the Belfast talks, decommissioning and possible future confidence-
The Prime Minister has consistently made clear the Government's position that we
would welcome a new ceasefire but that we are sceptical about how credible it would
be. The Prime Minister has also said from the start that there could be no question
of changing our policy, or negotiating with Sinn Fein, to achieve a new ceasefire,
which should be declared without further prevarication. However, he has added that
he was prepared to re-
The Prime Minister accordingly gave Mr. Hume in July the terms of a possible re-
This British Government text is attached. It describes a position which we believe to be fair, balanced and reasonable.
If Sinn Fein want to join the talks, it is for the IRA to declare a restoration of
their ceasefire in terms which are convincingly unequivocal, indicate the intention
that this ceasefire should be lasting, and reflect commitment to exclusively peaceful
means. The fulfilment of paragraph 8 of Command Paper 3232 is directly relevant to
this ("parties ... which ... establish a commitment to exclusively peaceful methods
and which have shown that they abide by the democratic process"). If this was followed
by the absence of paramilitary activity, including such confidence-
The talks are likely to break for Christmas soon and to resume in January at a date yet to be agreed. The statement attached does not determine how early Sinn Fein can join the talks after a ceasefire. That depends on the words and deeds of the IRA and Sinn Fein. We need to see an unequivocal restoration of the ceasefire and to make a credible judgement that it is lasting. We need to know that Sinn Fein will sign up to the Mitchell principles. The Government is not erecting new hurdles or seeking delay. We wish to see inclusive talks involving all parties as soon as possible.
But if Sinn Fein continue to exclude themselves from the talks, the talks must of course go on without them.
BRITISH GOVERNMENT POLICY ON THE NORTHERN IRELAND TALKS
This Government has made clear its approach to the search for peace in Northern Ireland
on many occasions. But we continue to be asked about this or that aspect, particularly
about the multi-
The purpose of the negotiations is to achieve a new beginning for relationships within Northern Ireland, within the island of Ireland and between the peoples of these islands. The negotiations have one overriding aim: to reach an overall political settlement, achieved through agreement and founded on consent.
They will therefore address all the issues relevant to a settlement. Inclusive in nature, they involve both the British and Irish Governments and all the relevant political parties with the necessary democratic mandate and commitment to exclusively peaceful methods.
It is important to emphasise that all parties are treated equally in the negotiations, in accordance with the scale of their democratic mandate and the need for sufficient consensus. But no one party can prevent the negotiations continuing by withdrawing from them. No party has an undemocratic advantage. Both Governments intend that the outcome of these negotiations will be submitted for democratic ratification through referendums, North and South.
The prospects for success in these negotiations will obviously be much greater if they take place in a peaceful environment. The loyalist ceasefire has made an important contribution. It made it possible for the loyalist parties to join the negotiations. They are now playing their part in shaping Northern Ireland's future, as I have acknowledged by meeting their leaders.
The British and Irish Governments agree that, beyond the unequivocal restoration of the IRA ceasefire, these negotiations are without preconditions. But in the light of the breaking of the ceasefire and the events since then, assurances are obviously needed that any new ceasefire would be intended to be genuinely unequivocal, i.e., lasting and not simply a tactical device. Consistent with this, the process set out below would follow the declaration by the IRA of an unequivocal restoration of the ceasefire with the stated purpose of the conflict being permanently ended.
The successful conclusion of this process would depend on whether words, actions
and all the circumstances were consistent with a lasting ceasefire. For example,
how far the declaration of a new ceasefire was convincingly unequivocal and intended
to be lasting would be an important indicator. Whether or not any paramilitary activity,
including surveillance, targeting and weapons preparation, continued would also be
directly relevant. Developments which were inconsistent with an unequivocal restoration
of the ceasefire or Sinn Fein's commitment to the Mitchell principles of democracy
We envisage that the process would involve:
From their entry into negotiations onwards, Sinn Fein would, in common with all the
other participants, be subject to all the agreed provisions and rules of procedure.
These include those governing the contingency where any participant is no longer
entitled to participate on the grounds that they have demonstrably dishonoured the
principles of democracy and non-
The range of issues on which an overall agreement will depend means that the negotiations will be on the basis of a comprehensive agenda. This will be adopted by agreement. Each participant will be able to raise any significant issue of concern to them, and to receive a fair hearing for those concerns, without this being subject to the veto of any other party. Any aspect can be raised, including constitutional issues and any other matter which any party considers relevant. No negotiated outcome is either predetermined or excluded in advance or limited by anything other than the need for agreement.
Among the crucial issues is decommissioning. So the opening plenary is addressing
the International Body's proposals on decommissioning of illegal arms. In their report,
the International Body said the parties should consider an approach under which some
decommissioning would take place during the process of all-
It is essential that all participants negotiate in good faith, seriously address all areas of the agreed agenda and make every effort to reach a comprehensive agreement. For their part, the two Governments are committed to ensure that all items on the comprehensive agenda are fully addressed. They will do so themselves with a view to overcoming any obstacles which may arise.
For our part, we are wholly committed to upholding our responsibility to encourage, facilitate and enable agreement over a period through the negotiations.
This must be based on full respect for the rights and identities of both traditions. We want to see peace, stability and reconciliation established by agreement.
We are also determined to see these negotiations through successfully, as speedily as possible. This is in line with the hopes and aspirations of people in both the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic. These have already given momentum to a process which will always have difficulties. We will encourage the adoption by the participants of an agreed indicative timeframe for the conduct of the negotiations and, if it would be helpful, will bring forward proposals for this. We have already proposed that a plenary meeting should be held in December to take stock of progress in the negotiations as a whole. The two Governments will also review progress at regular intervals. I will be meeting the Taoiseach on 9 December and the Secretary of State regularly meets the Tanaiste. Progress will be reviewed again by the end of May 1997, a date set in the legislation.
Meanwhile we are committed to raising confidence, both through the talks and through
a range of other measures alongside them. The International Body's report itself
proposes a process of mutual confidence-
So we will continue to pursue social and economic policies based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equity of treatment and parity of esteem irrespective of political, cultural or religious affiliation or gender. We support, with equal respect, the varied cultural traditions of both communities. We are also committed to developing policing arrangements so that the police service should enjoy the support of the entire community.
It is worth recalling that, in response to the ceasefires of Autumn 1994 and the
changed level of threat, we undertook a series of confidence-
These included changed arrangements for release of prisoners in Northern Ireland
under the Northern Ireland (Remission of Sentences) Act 1995, security force redeployments,
a review of emergency legislation and others. If the threat reduces again, the opportunity
for further confidence-
The opportunity for progress has never been greater. The process of peace and reconciliation has received valuable economic support from the United States, the European Union and through the International Fund. The negotiations are widely supported internationally and benefit from independent chairmen from the USA, Canada and Finland. They also have the overwhelming support of the people throughout these islands. They want them to take place in a peaceful environment, free of all violence. That is our aim too.