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1994 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview on Northern Ireland

Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep interview on Northern Ireland, held on 13th October 1994.


PRIME MINISTER:

Let me just say a word about the events of the last few hours. It is clearly extremely good news that we have the statement that we have all seen this morning from the paramilitaries. I am delighted about that, another very important part of the jigsaw has fallen into place.

What we need to do is to absorb what has happened, consider it and them decide how we move forward. We will do that in our own time and our own way but I am delighted at the news we have heard this morning. Now I will take just a couple of questions.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, is it now a working assumption that the IRA ceasefire is permanent?

PRIME MINISTER:

When I am ready to make that assumption, I will make it publicly.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, may I ask you, what is the next step you hope for?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, firstly, we must analyse precisely what is being said this morning, precisely what it may mean. Just a few months ago, people were saying we would make no progress at all, they said the Downing Street Declaration wouldn’t work. We have taken it cautiously, we have taken it slowly. I believe one of the reasons that we have made the progress that we are now beginning to see is precisely for that reason. So we don’t intend to be pushed. Today is unalloyed, good news. I don’t detract from it in any way but we must analyse it, consider it and then carefully decide with clear realism what is the best way to move forward. That is what we propose to do. As soon as we have down that, we will make it perfectly clear what we have in mind.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, the IRA joined the process through Sinn Fein. It is much harder to see how the Loyalist gunmen get to the talking process?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you raised perfectly one of the points that’s worthy of consideration before you comment on it, that is exactly right. Sinn Fein operate as a political party getting 10% of the vote in the north of Ireland, and claim that they will be able to speak for the IRA. That is not the case with the Loyalist paramilitaries. That’s one of the matters that we have to discuss.

QUESTION:

Will you be speaking to the Taoiseach - it is by no means certain I will. We speak quite regularly. Whether we speak later today I am not quite sure.

PRIME MINISTER:

I may well speak to the Taoiseach - it is by no means certain I will. We speak quite regularly. Whether we speak later today I am not quite sure.

QUESTION:

Despite precaution Prime Minister, overall a very good day?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, beyond any doubt at all it is extremely good news. And a few months ago, very few people would have imagined that we would have been talking in a situation in which there is an IRA ceasefire and a Loyalist paramilitary ceasefire, with a genuine hope that we may be able, after examining these matters, to move forward. We couldn’t have imagined it some time ago.

QUESTION:

[Unclear, but regarding the IRA qualification requirements which had been missed on August 31st 1994]

PRIME MINISTER:

We still have to reach the situation where we are satisfied it’s permanent. When we have reached that situation I will make a judgement upon those matters. But I repeat the point I made a moment ago, if we snatch at these things, it is going to slip away. We need to retain the confidence and trust of all the people in Northern Ireland and they expect us to be cautious. They have had 25 years of misery with bombings and killings in Northern Ireland. I think it is right to take this at a measured pace and I propose to continue doing so. Thank you all very much indeed.