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Sunday, October 3, 1999 Published at 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK

UK: Northern Ireland

Major attacks Hume in memoirs

Hume (right) won the Nobel Prize jointly with Unionist David Trimble

Former Tory Prime Minister John Major has accused SDLP leader John Hume of holding up the Northern Ireland peace process by siding with Sinn Fein.

Extracts from Mr Major's memoirs serialised in the Sunday Times describe the Nobel Peace Prize winner a "prickly character" and criticise him for being "loath to reciprocate unionist concessions'' during the early stages of the process.

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John Major said Mr Hume opposed an elected body in Northern Ireland when some republicans were in favour of it and he accuses Mr Hume of encouraging republicans to be ''utterly unrealistic''.

Mr Major criticises two drafts of the Hume/Adams document, a proposed declaration by Britain to try to secure an IRA ceasefire, as ''utterly one sided, so heavily skewed towards the presumption of a united Ireland that they had no merit as a basis for negotiation''.

'Unrealistic approach'

Mr Hume is widely credited for bringing republicans into the current peace process, but Mr Major alleges that Mr Hume and Irish Taoiseach, Charles Haughey were instead encouraging republicans to believe they could negotiate a united Ireland ''over the heads of unionism''.

[ image: John Major: Anti-Hume interpretation of peace process]
John Major: Anti-Hume interpretation of peace process
He says: ''The (drafts) were little more than an invitation to the British government to sell out the majority in the North and the democratic principles that we had always defended.

''An Irish official privately acknowledged that the Provisionals (IRA) were not aiming at general acceptability.

''Their aim was to unite the Irish government and the SDLP in a pan-Nationalist front in order to negotiate Northern Ireland 's future with the British government over the heads of unionism.

''I was frankly surprised that John Hume and Charles Haughey, both very experienced politicians, should have lent themselves to such an unrealistic approach.''

'Shrewd Molyneaux'

By contrast, in the chapter of his autobiography which describes his involvement in the peace process from 1993 to 1996, entitled Into the Mists: Bright Hopes, Black Deeds, Mr Major describes former Ulster Unionist leader, Jim Molyneaux as ''a wise old bird'' and ''a shrewd observer of the scene who weighs his words carefully''.

Mr Major says Lord Molyneaux faced terrible internal pressure from ''three mutineers within the party Willie Ross, Martin Smyth and David Trimble (now party leader).''

[ image: Former Ulster Unionist leader Molyneaux praised by Major]
Former Ulster Unionist leader Molyneaux praised by Major
Despite rumours to the contrary he said Lord Molyneaux never stuck a deal with his party in return for unionist support in the House of Commons on the Maastricht treat vote, which could have precipitated a damaging general election, if the Tories had lost.

John Major adds that the Irish government was first to raise the decommissioning of IRA weapons as a necessary confidence building measure and criticises the Reynolds administration for not sticking to the demand that arms should be handed in.

This, he said allowed republicans to say that the requirement for a demand for decommissioning was added into the political equation as a precondition after their ceasefire was called.

Speaking to the Sunday Times this weekend, Mr Major restated his commitment to the peace process.

He told the paper: ''I built this process. I am passionately keen that it will succeed and I have done all I can to help it succeed.''

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