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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 given in London on Wednesday 31st August 1994.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked whether Gerry Adam’s offer of permanent peace was sufficient or what a permanent ceasefire was needed].

PRIME MINISTER:

It truly isn’t a semantic point. Firstly, let me say I think the statement that has been made today is very welcome and it is a very great advance and to have this cessation of violence is a remarkable move forward but I think we do have to be clear that this is permanent, that it isn’t a temporary cease-fire that will be turned over at some stage and the armed conflict, as the Provisionals call it, will begin again. We must be certain it has ended.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if Gerry Adams had to use exact words].

PRIME MINISTER:

No, no. He doesn’t actually have to use the words I did but I think he has to make it clear unambiguously that this is the end of the use of violence, that they aren’t going to return to violence in pique if they don’t get their way at some future stage and there is a very practical reason for that.

What we have said in the Joint Declaration is that once there is a permanent renunciation of violence, after a period has elapsed in which that promise has been kept and there has been no violence we will talk to Sinn Fein about how to bring them into the democratic process. We cannot do that under the duress that they may return to armed conflict; we cannot do it and neither could any British Government.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if Gerry Adams saying he wanted a permanent peace was not enough].

PRIME MINISTER:

I haven’t seen what he said but I do know that it is perfectly clear he must make it unambiguously the case that whatever happens they will not return again to violence. As I have said, I am not hung up on a particular form of words but he must make that clear. That isn’t a new condition I should say; that is something that has been set out time and time again over many months and Mr Adams is well aware of that.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he accepted that Gerry Adams had a political problem in getting his supporters to back him on a ceasefire].

PRIME MINISTER:

We have indicated for many months what is necessary and I have made the point just now and repeat it again. It isn’t just a semantic point, it is a very real point. It isn’t a practical proposition to move forward, begin to enter into discussions with Sinn Fein about how to bring them into the talks and then let them lightly suddenly return to using violence. That is impossible. It isn’t right. I hope and believe that what they mean by their statement is that this is a permanent end of violence, but I don’t know it. I wish to be reassured about that. The terms in which they do it, there can be many ways in which they do it.