The Ulster Declaration: Major confronts Unionist wrath: The House of Commons

JOHN MAJOR was confronted with the outright hostility of the Democratic Unionists when he explained the joint declaration in a statement to the Commons. Ian Paisley, the party leader, said that it was an 'act of treachery', while Peter Robinson twisted the knife with past words of the Prime Minister and asked if his stomach was 'no longer turning at the prospect of sitting down with the IRA'.

'What is it that loyal Ulster has done wrong to have this further betrayal visited upon them?' demanded Mr Robinson, MP for Belfast East, in an outburst that Mr Major said was 'intended to be wholly destructive'.

Mr Robinson said Ulster's 'unfettered right' to self-determination had been taken away and included with that of the island of Ireland. 'Why is it that prime ministers who most protest their unionism are always the ones who do the greatest harm to the union?'

Mr Paisley said he found it 'offensive' to be told that, in three months' time, if the IRA ceased violence, they would be invited as constitutional politicians to sit down.

The Prime Minister had not had his constituents murdered and butchered, Mr Paisley went on. 'Maybe he would like to sit down with the godfathers of the people who would do it.' The Ulster people looked on the declaration as 'a sell-out act of treachery'.

Angered, Mr Major replied: 'The purpose of this agreement and this document is to make sure that, 25 years from now, Mr Paisley's successor does not sit there saying that to the prime minister of the day.' He wished to take action to make sure there was no more bloodshed, 'no more coffins carried away . . .' because politicians did not have the courage to address the problems.

The reaction of the official Ulster Unionists was restrained and cautious. David Trimble, MP for Upper Bann, reminded Mr Major of the euphoria eight years ago when the House 'very foolishly' endorsed the Anglo-Irish agreement. 'We are suspending judgement today on this statement in the hope that it will lead to a way out of the cul-de-sac to which the people of Ulster have been condemned for the last eight years.'

James Molyneaux, leader of the Ulster Unionists, asked 'in a constructive fashion' for a halt to the 'drift' over the last 20 years from the affairs of Northern Ireland being an internal matter for the UK parliament. Mr Major said the declaration did not commit the Government to joining the ranks of the 'persuaders for a united Ireland', or establish any arrangements for joint authority.

'For as long as a majority of the people of Northern Ireland wish to remain within the union, then they will have the total and complete support of the Government in doing so,' Mr Major said. He sidestepped calls from unionists and Tories that all weapons, ammunition and bomb-making materials should be surrendered, but ruled out any amnesty for terrorists.

John Hume, the SDLP leader, welcomed what he called 'one of the most comprehensive declarations made about British-Irish relations in the past 70 years'. He appealed to everyone who came to the table to do so armed only with the strength of their convictions, and not with any form of coercion.

'It is people that have rights, not territory. Humanity transcends nationality,' Mr Hume said. He hoped the declaration would be 'the first major step on a road that will remove forever the gun and the bomb from our small island . . .'

Mainland MPs welcomed the declaration. John Smith, the Labour leader, said there was now an opportunity for the permanent cessation of violence and involvement of Sinn Fein in constitutional dialogue, 'provided it is clear the path of violence has been abandoned'.

Alan Beith, for the Liberal Democrats, said the real question was for the terrorists. 'Why should anyone else die? Why should any more families be torn apart when it is possible to seek change, without obstacle, by a peaceful process?'

However, there was pressure from some Tories for a stronger commitment to the union. Paraphrasing the passage in the declaration that troubles the pro-unionists, Nicholas Budgen asked for confirmation that the Government 'still has a strategic or economic interest in Wolverhampton?'

Mr Major said that the Government was not going to impose its views on the majority in Northern Ireland, but that did not mean it was indifferent to their concerns. 'Our interest is benevolent, not selfish,' he told a similarly concerned Kate Hoey, the Ulster-born Labour MP for Vauxhall.

Tony Benn, Labour MP for Chesterfield, said the statement that Britain was no longer laying claim to an interest in the maintenance of the union was very important and ought to be emphasised in order to end the violence.

Mr Major recalled saying during the election that it would not be appropriate to hold Scotland within the UK if a majority of its people wanted independence. 'The same must apply to the people of Northern Ireland. That does not exclude the fact that I have my own personal views. It does illustrate the fact that, ultimately, it must be for the people themselves to determine.'

Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup