Below is the text of Mr Major’s Commons Statement on the Northern Ireland Peace Process.The statement was made in the House of Commons on 12th February 1996.
The Prime Minister (Mr. John Major): With permission, Madam Speaker, I will make a statement on the bomb explosion in the South Quay area of London last Friday, the declared end to the IRA ceasefire and the implications for security and the peace process in Northern Ireland.
There is no doubt that the evil act in London was the work of the IRA. It has all the hallmarks of its operations, with the callous sacrifice of innocent lives. The bomb followed shortly after an IRA statement, given to the Irish broadcasting organisation on the evening of 9 February, that the complete cessation of hostilities ordered in August 1994 was now at an end. The IRA admitted its responsibility for the bomb on 10 February.
The facts of the incident are briefly these. Around 5.45 pm last Friday, warning calls were made that a large bomb had been placed at South Quay station, Marsh Wall, in London. Local police arrived at the scene shortly after 6 o'clock, and anti-
At around 6.30 pm a suspect vehicle, a Ford flat-
I should like to pay tribute to the efforts of the emergency services. Despite being hampered by a fractured gas main at the scene, they responded magnificently and they richly deserve all our thanks.
I must say to the House that this may not be the last such atrocity. More may follow, both here on the mainland and in Northern Ireland, if the IRA ceasefire is not renewed. We will do all that we can to prevent that and to catch those responsible. The protection of the public will remain our first priority.
In Great Britain, security has immediately returned to pre-
The IRA has brought the 17-
In the months that followed, we reduced the more visible and inconvenient aspects of security. We took soldiers off the streets and opened all the border crossing points. We did everything possible to create new jobs in Northern Ireland through renewed inward investment, and we helped to produce a remarkable economic upsurge. We talked to Sinn Fein leaders at official and at ministerial level. We constantly sought to move the peace process forward towards the all-
No one took more risks for peace than the Government over the past two years, but we never lost sight of the fact that the IRA commitment had not been made for good. No responsible Government could have done otherwise. That was why we and many others saw a start to the decommissioning of illegal arms as a way of creating confidence in Sinn Fein's acceptance of democratic peaceful methods, and showing that the violence had really ended. But all the time that Sinn Fein was calling for all-
I regret to say that the events of last Friday showed that our caution about the IRA was only too justified. The timing of the return to violence may have been surprising: the fact that violence could resume was not. We must now continue the search for permanent peace and a comprehensive political settlement in Northern Ireland. Let there be no doubt that the Government's commitment to that is as strong as ever, and will remain as strong as ever.
We will work for peace with all the democratic political parties and with the Irish Government. But a huge question mark now hangs over the position of one of the parties-
Sinn Fein's leaders claim that they did not know about the bomb at South Quay and the IRA's ceasefire statement, but they have refused either to condemn or to dissociate themselves from either. Sinn Fein must decide whether it is a front for the IRA or a democratic political party that is committed to the ballot and not the bullet. Meanwhile, one thing is clear: in the absence of a genuine end to this renewed violence, meetings between British Ministers and Sinn Fein are not acceptable and cannot take place.
That is also the position of the Irish Government. They have made it clear to Sinn Fein that their attitude and willingness to meet at political level will be determined by whether the IRA ceasefire is restored. We and the Irish Government are at one on this: the ball is in the court of Sinn Fein and the IRA, if indeed that distinction means anything. It is for them to show through their words and actions whether they have a part to play in the peace process. I am not in the business of slamming doors, but the British and Irish peoples need to know where Sinn Fein stands.
The people of a democracy are not passive spectators to events. They have the right to make their views clear on these issues, and the people of Northern Ireland, from both communities, have consistently done so. The popular will for peace has never been clearer or more coherently expressed than in recent months. The peace process will go on. I commend all those who have had the courage and the sense, in the face of this latest atrocity, to work to prevent a wider return to violence.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and I have met all the parties in the past two weeks. That process will be intensified with the parties that have not, for the present, disqualified themselves. The aim is, as it has always been, to establish the necessary confidence to enable negotiations between all the parties to begin. I want everyone to be absolutely clear on that point. The objective of all our actions and policies, before and since the ceasefire, has been to get to a position in which all the constitutional and democratic parties can get around the table together. Everything else is a means to that essential end.
On 24 January, I told the House that, if the paramilitaries would not start decommissioning their illegal arms, one alternative way forward was through elections, to give the electoral mandates and confidence that could lead straight, and straight away, to negotiations. As proposed by the Mitchell report, decommissioning could go ahead in parallel with those negotiations. The proposal has been consistently misrepresented by Sinn Fein, and it has been misunderstood more widely. I repeat now that its purpose is to lead directly and speedily to negotiations between all the parties that are committed to peaceful and democratic methods, and it is aimed at reaching a comprehensive political settlement.
An elected body would have to be broadly acceptable and it would be strictly time limited. I am not proposing-
Our ideas are still being discussed with the parties. I should like to reassure the House that there are ways forward to negotiations with all the parties, which could include Sinn Fein-
The peace process in Northern Ireland has received a serious setback from the men of violence, but the process is not over-
This Government will not be deterred by terrorism. The people of Northern Ireland have tasted peace-