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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 4th September 1994.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked whether he was pleased with progress in Northern Ireland].

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me say we made some progress on Ireland and I am very pleased with that, perhaps a good deal more progress than many of my critics suspected but there is still a long way to go. The ceasefire is very welcome but we still have a long way to go before we have a permanent settlement and we can be absolutely certain about the future of Northern Ireland.

As to why now, we have had in the last 25 years - perhaps one might almost say in the last 300 years - a diet of bloodshed, hatred and fears ranged on either side. I thought I saw the circumstances in which we could move beyond that to end the violence and provide a settlement and it was upon that basis that I decided we should try and it has been at the top of my agenda since I first went to Downing Street.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if the clock was ticking].

PRIME MINISTER:

I am not entirely sure about that yet. The ceasefire has now been in force for a few days. We haven’t had an absolutely unambiguous signal that this is for good, but we have had a whole series of intimations that that may be the case. I can understand why Mr Adams doesn’t want to use the British form of words by saying “Here is a formal renunciation of violence!”, I can understand the political difficulties he has in using that form of words. I don’t mind another form of words that makes it clear beyond any doubt at all that come what may there will be no return to violence. I think they are edging towards that, they certainly edged towards that over the last few days with what Mr McGuinness and others have said. I am not absolutely sure they are precisely there yet but we will review that over the next few days.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why Albert Reynolds was convinced on the wording, but he himself wasn’t].

PRIME MINISTER:

We must all make our judgements but I am responsible for the security in Northern Ireland, that is the distinction. I have to be certain that there is confidence in Northern Ireland amongst all the people of Northern Ireland that this violence has ended for good. After so many years, people are bound to be uncertain about things. A huge range of frankly rather absurd things have been said; I can say categorically there have been no secret deals, no secret negotiations, no secret understandings but after all the years of bloodshed you can understand people’s uncertainty about that in Northern Ireland.

If this is going to succeed, if we are really going to carry the present circumstances through to a satisfactory and final conclusion, then we must have the confidence of all the people in Northern Ireland and I must make sure I can carry that.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if there had been progress].

PRIME MINISTER:

There has been progress. I am not sure it is quite sufficient yet but there has been progress and we need just a little more.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if just a few more words were needed].

PRIME MINISTER:

Just a little more.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if the right words were made, would he back-date the dead-lines].

PRIME MINISTER:

Let us have the words first. I am going to take this matter cautiously and I don’t think that is a question of anything other than prudence. We have had 25 years of murder, that is what the people of Northern Ireland have faced. If we are to carry their confidence, I return to the same point again because it is crucial that unless there is confidence amongst the Catholics in Northern Ireland and amongst the Protestants in Northern Ireland about what is happening then the old fears will be raised, there will be plenty enough people who wish to raise those fears who simply don’t believe we can make progress. I believe we can. I don’t want to see this whole affair frozen in hopelessness any longer. I think there is a prospect of moving forward but we are more likely to sustain what happens if we take it cautiously, clearly and carry people with us as we do it. I am not going to snatch at something on the first day.