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1993: Anglo-Irish pact paves way for peace
The British and Irish prime ministers have signed The Joint Declaration of Peace which they hope will end 25 years of bombing and murder in Northern Ireland.

After nearly two years' negotiation the two leaders, John Major and Albert Reynolds, today stood united on the steps of 10 Downing Street.

The nine-point document gives the IRA and Loyalist paramilitaries the opportunity to take part in negotiations for peace if they first agree to observe a three-month ceasefire.

Reaction has been mixed even though this is the furthest the British Government has ever moved towards the possibility of a united Ireland.

'Disappointment'

The declaration states that Britain would not prevent Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom and joining the Irish Republic, but that the ultimate decision would lie with the people of Northern Ireland.

John Major gave reassurances in the declaration that Britain had "no selfish, strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland".

But he warned the terrorists that if they lost this opportunity, it might never come their way again.

The two premiers made it clear that if the declaration was not successful in bringing peace to the province the two governments would work together to combat terrorism in whatever ways were necessary.

Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing, said its initial response was one of "disappointment". The party's Northern Ireland chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said the declaration did not go far enough in meeting the aspirations of the nationalists.

And James Molyneaux, leader of the official Ulster Unionists, spoke of "deep unease" among his Loyalist supporters.

The Democratic Unionist leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, called it "a dark hour of treachery".

Later, in a rare prime-time television broadcast the Prime Minister, Mr Major, called on Ulster "to put the poison of history behind us.

"We cannot go on spilling blood in the name of the past. We must all have the courage to look to the future.

"The time to choose peace is long overdue. But only the men of violence can decide whether they will talk instead of bomb, discuss instead of murder."

The leader of the Labour Party, John Smith, welcomed the declaration saying it was "an important first step towards a new political settlement".

The declaration also won the full backing of US President Bill Clinton. He said: "No side which claims a legitimate stake in the future of Northern Ireland can justify continued violence on any grounds."

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John Major and Albert Reynolds
The Downing Street Declaration united the two premiers in their quest for peace



In Context
The IRA declared a ceasefire at the end of August 1994 and the Loyalists announced a ceasefire on 13 October that year.

On 9 December British officials met Sinn Fein representatives for their first formal talks in 22 years.

But the peace initiative did not last. The IRA ceasefire ended on 9 February 1996 when a huge bomb was planted in London's Docklands.

A new ceasefire was announced in July 1997 and the Good Friday Agreement was signed in April 1998. It included plans for a new Northern Ireland assembly with some devolved powers from London.

But the Assembly has been suspended several times, the last in October 2002 after allegations that the IRA had been spying within the Northern Ireland Office.

Direct rule finally ended in May 2007 when the Northern Ireland Assembly was restored with DUP leader Ian Paisley as first minister and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness as his deputy.

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