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1995 - Mr Major’s Comments on the Northern Ireland Peace Process

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on the Northern Ireland peace process, made in an interview in Huntingdon on Friday 29th December 1995.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if the Northern Ireland peace process was at a stage of both danger and opportunity].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think you could probably have said that at any stage since the peace process began. It has always been part of a process where there was always the opportunity that something would go wrong and it would stop. Now clearly what people have their eyes focused on at the moment is the outcome of the Mitchell Commission that we will have some time in January or February. I don’t see any great reason for concern about that, I think there is a clear remit for them. Once we have the report we can decide how best to go forward.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if there might be new thinking on the arms decommissioning issue].

PRIME MINISTER:

That isn’t their remit. Their remit is to determine whether the paramilitaries, not just the IRA by the Loyalist paramilitaries, whether they are prepared to decommission and if so how they are prepared to decommission. That is the remit that the Mitchell Commission have.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if there was a need for new ideas from the Commission].

PRIME MINISTER:

That is a matter for the government. We will have to decide how to deal with that matter and in due course we will. But there is more than one way of dealing with it. The most obvious way of dealing with it of course is for the IRA to decide that they will begin to decommission their weapons. The standard IRA line upon this is that that is the British simply putting an obstacle in the way, but that is patently absurd for anyone who examines the matter for a moment. For example, if you look at an opinion poll in the Republic of Ireland, 3 out of 4 people in that poll felt that there should be decommissioning before the talks began, so it certainly isn’t just a matter of the British government.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked whether he would consider new ideas from the Commission if they were offered].

PRIME MINISTER:

We are all looking at different ways to deal with the present circumstance. The whole purpose of this exercise from the beginning has been to get all the political parties sitting down together, including Sinn Fein. But the point at issue is this, and it is not a British government point particularly, though we happen to agree with it, the point at issue is that the other political parties, the Unionist parties in particular, will not sit down with Sinn Fein until they are clear in their minds that Sinn Fein are determined upon peace. Well they are not clear in their minds and they make the view, I don’t think the unreasonable view, that you cannot negotiate for peace with an armalite in your hand held at the negotiators’ heads. That is a position that has applied from the beginning.