It was perfectly clear what Sinn Fein and the IRA needed to do, the Prime Minister said - to give up violence for good. This had been clearly spelt out in the Downing Street declaration, which provided a route for them into politics.
He added: 'I said last night that I thought the three-day ceasefire was a very cynical exercise. What effectively the IRA are saying is, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday they will decide not to attack people and not to kill people; on Friday, Saturday, Sunday they think they can go back to killing people.'
The Prime Minister was speaking in the baronial splendour of Hillsborough Castle, where British ministers stay when spending the nightin Northern Ireland. He had just breakfasted with the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Army's General Officer Commanding.
Reporters and camera crews had received two preliminary briefings on the occasion, one at 7am. Car passes and lapel badges took them through two rings of security into the prime ministerial presence.
Was it not hypocritical, Mr Major was asked, to decline to clarify the declaration after communicating with Sinn Fein for much of last year? He replied: 'We responded to questions that we were asked by Sinn Fein last year, if I can correct the way you put the question.
'It's perfectly clear to everybody else what it means, it's perfectly clear to Sinn Fein as well. What they're doing is to try and encourage the gullible to believe that there's some extra step to draw the Government into negotiation. The fact is that the gullible ought not to be deceived.'
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