Leading Article: Peace should be the priority

Share
Related Topics
THE relative lightness of the legislative programme put forward in the Queen's Speech yesterday reflects the Government's weakness. After a first year in which Conservative Party divisions were on almost permanent view during the passage of the Maastricht ratification Bill, nothing too divisive could be risked. Notable omissions include the privatisation of the Post Office and the equalisation of pensions. With attention likely to be dominated by yet another massive Criminal Justice Bill, the emphasis is on propitiating grass roots opinion within the party.

This rightwards adjustment lacks even a sniff of the stuff of history. John Major was wise to sense that something more memorable was needed to help to redeem his party from its low point in public esteem. Northern Ireland is precisely such an issue and - following his courageous and widely welcomed speech at Guildhall - he duly gave it pride of place yesterday. The most important points he made in the Commons were first, that the Government would put proposals of its own on the table if it would be helpful to do so; and second, that no party could exercise a veto on progress.

Mr Major's thrust was unambiguously clear: if talks with the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland once again prove to be fruitless, the Government stands ready to appeal to the people of Northern Ireland over the heads of their elected representatives. The warning is most obviously addressed to Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party, whose reactions to Mr Major's new willingness to contemplate sitting down under clearly defined conditions with Sinn Fein have been of relentless hostility.

Mr Major neatly contrasted what he called the 'palpable mood for peace' felt by many with a need to be endlessly avenged experienced by others. He coupled these implied admonitions to the DUP with a repeated guarantee that there would be no change in Northern Ireland's status without the freely confessed consent of its people; and observed shrewdly that it was now for Sinn Fein, the IRA and loyalist paramilitaries to draw the right conclusions.

The country would suffer no great loss if many of the 13 new measures outlined in the Queen's Speech were to fall by the wayside. If, by contrast, Mr Major could become the Prime Minister who brought peace and a stable new political order to Northern Ireland, the country would heave a collective sigh of relief and thanks.

It is in the nature of governments to be forever making and unmaking legislation, much of which is gratuitous. The violence in Northern Ireland - and on the mainland - is not just a constantly recurring human tragedy. It is also a drain on national resources, and a source of many misperceptions of this country. For Mr Major to give the search for a solution the high-

est priority would be an act of

political wisdom as well as of

statesmanship.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

 

Ed Miliband's conference speech must show Labour has a head as well as a heart

Patrick Diamond
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments