Labour Party officials distanced the leadership from the document after the Prime Minister called for either the policy to be repudiated or the resignation of Kevin McNamara, the Labour spokesman on Northern Ireland, who was responsible for it.
'If it is the policy of the Labour Party, it is a recipe for disaster. I hope the Leader of the Opposition (John Smith) will request the resignation of his spokesman this day. He has an obligation to the people of Northern Ireland to say whether this is the policy of their party,' John Major told MPs during Prime Minister's questions.
The issue was raised in the Commons by James Molyneaux, leader of the Ulster Unionists, who were infuriated by the Labour policy document. It proposed a six-month deadline for constitutional parties in Northern Ireland to reach agreement on the future of the Province. If they failed, the policy document proposed opening talks with Dublin on dual responsibility for Northern Ireland.
A Labour spokesman said: 'It was a document prepared for Mr McNamara before the last election. It was never seen by the then leader (Neil Kinnock) and it has never been seen by the present leader, nor has it been shown to the Shadow Cabinet. Therefore, it has no status whatsoever.'
The paper, described as a 'discussion document', was produced by advisers to Mr McNamara, who is busy drafting a new document to advance the inter-party talks process beyond its present impasse. Labour is committed to unifying Ireland only with the consent of the majority in Northern Ireland.
The official said that it was 'highly unlikely' the 53-page discussion paper would become party policy, but the spokesman said that Mr McNamara hoped there would be discussion about it.Reuse content