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1994 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview in Northern Ireland

Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep interview held at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland on Thursday 31st March 1994.


PRIME MINISTER:

I just want to say a word or two. I am delighted to be back here in Northern Ireland this morning. I have just had the opportunity over breakfast of a briefing on security and other matters with the Chief Constable, the GOC and the Secretary of State. I am quite satisfied that security cooperation is improving in Northern Ireland and the increasing effectiveness of the security forces. I am very pleased to have the opportunity of discussing that yet again, I look forward to coming back again and again to do so.

QUESTION:

The Taoiseach today described the statement from the IRA as a very small step, do you agree with that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think the Taoiseach's view and mine over the course that the IRA need to take is quite clear, we both made it clear repeatedly that they need to stop violence and they need to stop violence for good. We committed ourselves to that in the joint declaration, I have said it repeatedly since and so has the Taoiseach.

QUESTION:

What do you say however to the clergymen who attended to many of the bereaved and injured in the Shankhill Road who said everybody should build on those three days of ceasefire, what do you say to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I said last night that I thought the three day ceasefire was a very cynical exercise. Let me tell you why I said that. What effectively the IRA are saying is that on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday they will decide not to attack people and not to kill people, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday they think they can go back to killing people. Well I do not think that is satisfactory, it is a cynical ploy, the only message we want to hear from them is that they have decided to give up violence for good. I am sure that clergyman and everybody else would wish to see them do that.

QUESTION:

Do you reject that move by the IRA?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have just said to you that I believe that it is a cynical exercise, I believe it is a self-serving and a cynical exercise. And there is absolutely no doubt what Sinn Fein and the IRA need to do, it has been spelt out perfectly clearly, I would like to see them enter the democratic process. The joint declaration opens the door for them to do precisely that, they know what needs to be done, it is perfectly clear, if they genuinely wish to play a democratic part in the future politics of Northern Ireland there is a road for them to do so, there is a route in which they can achieve that. They have thus so far failed to do so so I am simply not impressed by short term manoeuvres like this one.

QUESTION:

Is there not some danger of conflict between your government and the Irish government given Mr Reynolds' guarded welcome for the ceasefire, are you on the same lines?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes we are completely on the same lines, we are in very close contact, we have remained in very close touch, we both stand absolutely behind the principles that are in the joint declaration, we do now and we will in the future, there is no difference between the governments.

QUESTION:

Considering that your government spoke to Sinn Fein last year, is it not a bit hypocritical for you to turn down clarification at this vital stage?

PRIME MINISTER:

We responded to questions that we were asked by Sinn Fein last year, if I can correct the way you put the question. As far as clarification is concerned, the document stands on its own merits, it is perfectly clear to everybody else what it means, it is perfectly clear to Sinn Fein as well, what they are doing is to try and encourage the gullible to believe that there is some extra step to draw the government into negotiation which would lead them to behave differently. The fact is the gullible ought not to be deceived. At the moment the joint declaration is putting Sinn Fein under pressure, I intend to stand by the joint declaration and I hope everyone will keep up the pressure.

QUESTION:

Given that your government did talk to Sinn Fein last year wouldn’t it have been normal for people in Northern Ireland to expect that given the gesture which the IRA has made that you will make some approaches through the Secret Service or other bodies?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well as I indicated just a moment ago to the last questioner, we responded to questions put to us by the IRA last year and I do not think I could have made my position clearer about the three day ceasefire that they have now offered, that is not going to change the future of Northern Ireland, they can, they can stop the violence permanently and then in due course enter the constitutional talks. The question you should be asking is not what I propose to make of the three day ceasefire but why they will not take the offer that is on the table for them from the British Government and the Irish government to stop killing people permanently, to stop wrecking people's lives permanently and to enter into a constitutional dialogue, that is the question that should be asked.

QUESTION:

Will there be any sort of crack-down if it is IRA business as usual after the ceasefire?

PRIME MINISTER:

The security cooperation that exists at the moment is very good, it is very good, it is very close, I cannot recall a time when it was better and perhaps more relevantly that is also the view of the people directly responsible for security. We are always looking for ways to see whether that can be improved and we will continue to do that.