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1994 - Mr Major’s Comments on Northern Ireland

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on Northern Ireland, made during an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, made in London on Thursday 29th December 1994.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked whether an elected body was achievable and what would be achieved in the next 12 months].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it is impossible to say how far we will have gone. Most people looking back twelve months ago would not have imagined the progress that has been made in the last year. It will remain in the centre of the agenda, I think that is entirely clear. I hope very soon we will be able to agree a framework document with the Irish Government; we will then publish that so that everyone in Northern Ireland can see what is in it. I hope we will be able to get through the preliminary talks with Sinn Fein and the Loyalist paramilitaries and engage then in the mainstream talks amongst the political parties. I certainly hope to make that progress but quite how rapid that will be I can’t say.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked whether Sinn Fein sought a genuine settlement].

PRIME MINISTER:

I very much hope so. I can’t see any advantage to Sinn Fein in not seeking a settlement if a satisfactory agreement can be reached, so I very much hope they are talking in good faith.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he believed that Martin McGuinness was willing to do a deal]

PRIME MINISTER:

Only time will tell. I have never promised this will be easy and I have never promised that a satisfactory outcome was certain, for it isn’t, but I do believe we have a better chance than we have known at any stage in the last quarter of a century of reaching a settlement. A huge amount of progress has been made. Time and time again, people have said to me: “But you can’t overcome the next hurdle!” and we have overcome the next hurdle. There are many difficulties that lie immediately ahead, not least the question of the decommissioning of arms, but steadily they have been brushed to one side.

What I think gives cause for the greatest optimism is the sheer effort of will amongst the people of Northern Ireland that they themselves wish to see a final agreement and the end of violence for good. Nobody should under-estimate the importance of that; that has its impact upon opinion, its impact upon opinion within Sinn Fein as well; provided that option remains rock solid - and I believe it will - then there is a very powerful impetus towards the move towards a settlement.