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Thursday, May 21, 1998 Published at 06:38 GMT 07:38 UK




Blair joined by Hague in Yes campaign
image: [ Tony Blair in front of his handwritten pledges to the people of Northern Ireland ]
Tony Blair in front of his handwritten pledges to the people of Northern Ireland

Tony Blair has been joined by Conservative leader William Hague in trying to win over the one in four voters in Northern Ireland who have still to decide how to vote in Friday's referendum.

The Prime Minister visited Northern Ireland for the third time in three weeks on Wednesday, sharing a platform with Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble to campaign for a Yes vote.


Tony Blair in Coleraine: "I value the union of the United Kingdom" (56")
In a speech at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, Mr Blair tried to convince unionist voters that their future would be secure. He emphasised that there could be no change to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland without the consent of a majority of its people.

The Prime Minister argued that the Good Friday agreement offered a chance for peace that would come only once this generation.

He emphasised that he was speaking as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. "I value that union. I value what goes with that," he said.

Blair's five pledges

Earlier, Mr Blair gave the people of Northern Ireland five handwritten pledges:

  • No change to the status of Northern Ireland without the express consent of the people

  • The power to take decisions to be returned from London to Northern Ireland, with accountable North-South co-operation

  • Fairness and equality for all

  • Those who use or threaten violence to be excluded from the government of Northern Ireland

  • Prisoners to be kept in prison unless violence is given up for good

    The pledges are to be printed as posters and distributed throughout the province in the last days of the campaign

    Hague 'to hold Blair to prisoners' pledge'

    Mr Hague, meanwhile, flew to Northern Ireland with the Prime Minister to campaign for a Yes vote in the Bangor heartland of leading No campaigner Robert McCartney.


    [ image: William Hague: Tory leader is campaigning with Mr Blair]
    William Hague: Tory leader is campaigning with Mr Blair
    He called on voters to trust the people who had negotiated the agreement.

    Without the deal, there was no hope for the future, he argued.

    However, Mr Hague later added that he intended to hold Mr Blair to the promise he had given about the release of prisoners, an issue that has become a key part of the campaign.


    [ image: Young voters: among the largest group of undecided]
    Young voters: among the largest group of undecided
    The latest opinion poll has been welcomed by Northern Ireland political development minister Paul Murphy.

    The telephone poll for Thursday's Irish Times suggests 60% in favour of the agreement (up 4% on the previous week), 25% against (no change) and 15% undecided (down 4%).

    Mr Murphy said the apparent trend for "don't knows" to come out in favour of the "yes" campaign was good news. "People have obviously been reflecting over the last few days and I would expect this trend to continue in the run-up to polling day. I believe it will get higher," he said.






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