Declaration of peace for Ireland

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THE BRITISH and Irish governments will today unveil a historic joint 'peace declaration' which they believe holds the potential for bringing a quarter of a century of violence to a close.

The joint declaration will recognise the right of the people of the North and South of Ireland to self-determination - a key condition for the ending of IRA violence. Balancing that will be a strong emphasis on Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom for so long as a majority there wish.

The Irish government is to acknowledge formally that it would be wrong to attempt to impose a united Ireland.

John Major and Albert Reynolds will seal the deal at a summit in London this morning - their third meeting within two weeks. The Prime Minister will make a statement in the Commons this afternoon while the Taoiseach will report to the Dail.

Both governments believe the declaration stands a realistic chance of meeting the concerns of the IRA and Sinn Fein. It is understood it bears some resemblance to the Hume-Adams peace proposals, though there is no guarantee that it will cause the IRA to lay down its arms. Sinn Fein said last night that it would study the declaration and measure it against the substance of those proposals.

In today's declaration, the British government will indicate that a united Ireland could come into being if that is the wish of the people in both North and South. The two parts would exercise their right to self-determination respectively - that is, separately - by agreement and on the basis of freely given consent. London will emphasise its determination to uphold the democratic wishes of the people of Northern Ireland.

The Irish government is to add an acknowledgement that Irish history shows there can be no stability in any system of government that is rejected by some section of its people.

British and Irish sources said some final details had to be worked out but it was already being assumed that the 11am Downing Street summit will take little more than an hour. A rare prime ministerial broadcast has not been ruled out for tonight.

The final negotiations between London and Dublin were still under way when the Prime Minister was at Buckingham Palace for his weekly audience with the Queen. Mr Reynolds' agreement to the draft ended a dramatic day in which he and Mr Major had twice spoken by telephone to clear stumbling blocks which had emerged in negotiations - and which caused Dublin yesterday to adopt a cautious approach towards the prospect of an agreement.

The declaration will announce the setting up of a forum, to be organised by the Irish government, to which Sinn Fein will be invited once it becomes evident the IRA has laid down its arms. That is a dilution of an Irish government proposal for a convention with which the British government was to be associated.

It is understood that both Unionist and nationalist leaders have been briefed. The Ulster Unionist leader, James Molyneaux is known to have reservations about the development but has apparently indicated that he will not denounce it.

Denunciation is, however, expected from Ian Paisley, and possibly from some members of Mr Molyneaux's party who may see more dangers in the document than he does.

The declaration contains a reference to Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution, whose removal Unionists have demanded for some years. It is made clear, however, that the Irish government would consider removing those only as part of a far-reaching overall settlement.

In spite of Irish pressure, Britain has not included any statements on the value of legitimacy or Irish unity.


Recognition of the right of the people of Ireland to self-determination;

Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom so long as a majority there wish it;

A new all-Ireland forum to include Sinn Fein;

Removal of Articles 2 and 3 from the Irish constitution once an overall settlement is agreed.

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