Biography Chronology Home Search Speeches/Statements

1996 - Mr Major’s Comments on the Osnabruck Mortar Attack

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on the Osnabruck mortar attack, made during an interview in Lyon held on Saturday 29th June 1996


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if the IRA were behind the Osnabruck attack].

PRIME MINISTER:

The presumption must be that it is the IRA, but that is not yet confirmed. But the nature of attack - mortar from a small van - suggests very strongly that it was them. Thankfully no-one was injured. I think what this does yet again, if it proves to be the IRA, as I suspect it is, is indicate that they are becoming more and more isolated.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he had information from the security services or his own instincts about such an attack].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think we unsurprised that there has been more, and it is conceivable there will be yet more. But one can never be certain quite when and how they will attempt this sort of exercise.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if Sinn Fein/IRA had given up on the peace process].

PRIME MINISTER:

It is very difficult to say. The psychology of the way they work is always very difficult to judge. Certainly there are different views prevailing within the IRA, of that we are certain, and at the moment the predominant view seems to be that they believe they will make some progress by this sort of terrorist attack. That is a fatal misjudgement on their behalf, it is a misjudgement of the British Government, it is a misjudgement of the British people and it is a misjudgement of international opinion as well.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked whether internment would be considered].

PRIME MINISTER:

There are a range of alternatives, I don’t wish to run through them and I am sure you will understand why not. But as far as matters like internment have been concerned, we have never ruled those out.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if Sinn Fein could still re-enter the peace talks at this stage].

PRIME MINISTER:

Every activity, every single attack divorces them further from the mainstream political parties and their willingness to accept them into the talks process. So the concept that they could enter into a range of bombing atrocities of the sort we have seen at Manchester, and now I think at Osnabruck, and then walk in the talks is plainly nonsense, nonsense because it wouldn’t be acceptable to the British and Irish governments, and nonsense because it would not be acceptable to the other parties either.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he felt personal despair at the situation].

PRIME MINISTER:

Not despair, certainly not, because the gains that have been made I think are very real. For the first time, the IRA are really becoming isolated in Northern Ireland, in the Republic of Ireland, they have lost the support that they had internationally, that certainly means they will losing a very large part of the funding. They are shrinking in the view of many people who previously supported them. That I think is extremely good news and from the IRA’s point of view they must be extremely worried about that.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if Sinn Fein and the IRA needed to be separate].

PRIME MINISTER:

Sinn Fein take a rather curious position. On one hand they say we are nothing to do with the IRA - well that is patent nonsense - there is a great intermingling of membership right at the top, they are both sides of the same coin and anyone with the slightest knowledge of Northern Ireland and the whole affair knows that they well. If Sinn Fein say they are nothing to do with the IRA then really they are a very small part of the Northern Ireland political process and have no real influence. Their important is the fact that many people believe they do have influence over the IRA. Well if they do have influence over the IRA, they had better use it, and if they don’t use their influence then it is most unlikely that anyone is going to wish to see them enter into the talks.