Forcing unionists into a united Ireland will lead to renewed violence, warns former British Prime Minister John Major

ANY attempt to force unionists into a united Ireland will lead to fresh violence, John Major told a Dáil committee.

The former British Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party said former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds “would have preferred that I had become a believer in unification”.

But Mr Major said, ‘I couldn’t and wouldn’t.

“And the reason is clear,” he said. “If I had done that, it would have broken the peace process because the unionist community would never have cooperated in any way.”

Mr Major said: “It was clear that if unification was to take place it would have to be done with open consent because for the unionist community any attempted coercion would have failed and led to renewed violence.

“That was – and remains – true,” he said.

Speaking to the Good Friday Agreement Committee via video link from Westminster, Mr Major guided members through his time at Downing Street from 1990 to 1997, a period which saw the IRA’s historic first Provisional Armistice in August 1994.

Mr Major said when he succeeded Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister he had little or no background on Northern Ireland issues.

“So maybe the first question is, why was I so concerned about what we loosely call The Troubles? The answer to that is simple.

“Life in Northern Ireland has never been free of terror. And to me, violence in Northern Ireland was just as unacceptable as anywhere else in the UK.”

Mr Major said he had started reading into the problem and its history.

“For that reason I visited Northern Ireland more often than anywhere else between 1990 and 1997, be it in the UK or abroad,” he said.

In the month he became Prime Minister, former Northern Ireland Minister Peter Brooke had opened an intelligence channel to get news from the Provisional IRA. He also made “the important statement that the British Government has no selfish or strategic interest in Northern Ireland”.

It eventually led to receiving a message he believed to be from the late Martin McGuinness, although McGuinness denied it, stating “The war is over.” She then sought assistance in ending the violence and opening a political way.

Mr Major clarified that the message also said the violence would continue, otherwise the press would “misinterpret” the situation as surrender.

In February 1992, Albert Reynolds became Taoiseach, “and within two weeks we were having a private dinner at Downing Street,” Mr Major said.

“We discovered empathy. We know it was there before because we had met as finance ministers a few years earlier. But we have discovered a common aspiration to end the violence in Northern Ireland,” Major said.

“And despite disagreements and rounds and frustrations and all the things that come with negotiation, our friendship lasted until the day it died,” he said.

He added: “I want to make it clear that it’s his [Reynolds’] role in promoting peace should never be underestimated. He was a remarkable man and he became a friend I had to cherish.”

Mr Major declined to offer opinions on current issues relating to Northern Ireland as he is no longer a Member of either House of Commons in Westminster, although he said he remains a committed European and hopes the Good Friday Agreement will not be damaged or destroyed by doing so become any faction or ideology.

At one point he remarked, “Let me say something that might surprise you. It’s very difficult to put it properly because it will create fear in some circles. Let me talk about the provisionals.

“They said there was a desire to seek peace, albeit on their terms. While I’ve dealt with some pretty difficult backbenchers on the subject in London, they probably weren’t as difficult as the Provisionals’ ‘backbenchers’. I think we should remember that too.

“Because dealing with them was very frustrating, but also courageous [for the Provisional leadership] take the risk.

“It is not encouraging to refuse negotiations. It’s easy. It takes courage to start negotiations.” Forcing unionists into a united Ireland will lead to renewed violence, warns former British Prime Minister John Major

Fry Electronics Team

Fry is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button