Unionists' hard line delivers blow to hopes for Irish talks: Major warned that Commons 'understanding' may be at risk
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Tuesday 01 March 1994
Its leader, James Molyneaux, went so far as to hint that he might end his party's Commons 'understanding' with the Prime Minister unless John Major agreed to change the existing formula of involving Dublin in talks.
The new hard-line stance emerged with the publication of a party document, A Blueprint for Stability, which nationalists immediately denounced as a plan to re-establish majority rule. The approach is seen as being motivated partly by a desire to cover its flank from attack by the Rev Ian Paisley in the run-up to the European election in June. Mr Paisley's Democratic Unionist party, which usually performs well in European contests, has already counted itself out of future talks. The Ulster Unionists, who have not rejected the Downing Street Declaration as Mr Paisley did, clearly feel vulnerable to his allegations that they have gone soft.
Their document calls for Northern Ireland to be acknowledged as an integral part of the United Kingdom. It advocates a new devolved assembly in Belfast with executive powers. These would be exercised through departmental committees, the chairmen and membership of which would be broadly in proportion to party strengths. Sinn Fein would be excluded.
A Bill of Rights and other machinery would be established to deal with minority grievances. Once established, the assembly would work out its relations with the Republic of Ireland, though these would be hindered, the document says, if the South did not remove its constitutional claim to Northern Ireland. Given present voting strengths, the proposed assembly and its committees could be expected to have built-in Unionist majorities.
Nationalist representatives characterised the document as a bid to return to Protestant majority rule and to freeze out the republic. The Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, said internal solutions had not worked in the past, adding that there could be no return to 'the bad old days of Stormont'.
Mr Molyneaux said many people had told him they did not want him to get involved in the 'circus' of inter-party talks again.
The move represents a setback for government hopes of restarting inter-party talks on the basis of involving constitutional parties and the Irish government. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Sir Patrick Mayhew, has recently spoken of his hopes for new talks, but it is difficult to see how these could be meaningful in the absence of the two major Unionist parties.
Mr Major made it clear at a meeting with senior US Congressmen in Washington yesterday that he was determined to press ahead with the talks. Officials travelling with him said he had not yet had a chance to study a full report of Mr Molyneaux's statement but that the British Government intended to carry on trying to make progress to a constitutional settlement.
Mr Major also assured the Congressmen that the offer to Sinn Fein of full participation in talks if the IRA renounced violence would remain, whatever the outcome of Sinn Fein's current deliberations.
Leading article, page 15
- 3 Daily Show's Jon Stewart destroys Fox News for its Ferguson coverage
- 5 Terror threat level raised to severe as PM warns Isis risk could last for decades
Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
YouTube video posted by Isis militants shows 'execution of 250 Syrian soldiers'
Botched ice bucket challenge leaves man critically injured after plane drops hundreds of gallons of water
Terror threat level raised to severe as PM warns Isis risk could last for decades
Isis 'A Message in Blood' video shows beheading of Kurdish man in Iraq
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
- < Previous
- Next >
£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...
£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...
£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...