Mr Adams accused the Prime Minister of seeking to 'frustrate a genuine effort to end the stand-off' between the IRA and the British Government by making public his own letter to Downing Street seeking 'clarification' of the December declaration.
But in a clear sign that the peace process had not terminally faltered, Sir Patrick Mayhew re-emphasised in his second speech in 24 hours that the Government was still intent on securing peace as well as a lasting political settlement. In a fresh passage designed to reassure nationalists, Sir Patrick emphasised in the Commons that the joint declaration made it clear their 'aspirations, when pursued by peaceful means, are fully legitimate'.
Mr Major has told Mr Adams in a letter from his foreign affairs private secretary, Roderic Lyne, released yesterday, that both he and Albert Reynolds, the Irish Prime Minister, would not renegotiate the declaration. It provided a 'balanced framework for peace and democracy which recognises the interests and aspirations of both main traditions that exist in Ireland'.
Mr Major did not explicitly rule out further 'clarification'. Whitehall officials explained that the term 'renegotiation' had been used by the Prime Minister because Mr Adams had specifically referred in his own letter to Mr Major on 7 January to differences between the June document put by the Irish government to London and the eventual joint declaration.
The letter from Mr Lyne says: 'Your letter seeks to reopen issues for renegotiation by pointing back towards a position you say the Irish government put last year.'
In his statement yesterday, Mr Adams replied that Mr Major was working to his own 'narrow political agenda'. The key issues that Sinn Fein wanted clarified were 'textual matters arising from the declaration; contradictory commentary and interpretation' of the declaration by both prime ministers; and 'what mechanisms or measures are envisaged to move the situation towards a lasting peace.'
Sir Patrick made clear in a speech on Thursday night that the IRA would be enabled to begin clarifying the declaration after ending violence and a subsequent three-month 'quarantine' period. But although he again emphatically reminded Unionists in the Commons that Britain would not abandon the principle that change in Northern Ireland would only take place with majority consent, Sir Patrick again went out of his way to emphasise that the British Government had no preconception about the outcome of political negotiations.
In terms which suggested the Government is trying to reassure nationalists - including any peace faction in the IRA - more vigorously than in recent weeks, he said: 'No one outcome in the process of agreement is ruled out in advance, nor will any be ruled out in the event.'
Meanwhile Seamus Mallon, leader of the Social and Democratic Labour Party, said in the Commons that Sinn Fein and the IRA 'had done more damage to the cause of Irish unity in the past 25 years through their violence than any other single factor'. He said that on the issue of self-determination, there was 'not a whisper' between the joint declaration and the document agreed between John Hume, leader of the SDLP, and Mr Adams.Reuse content