Letter: Echo of Heath's Irish message

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The Independent Online
Sir: Conor Cruise O'Brien states ('Quit now we're ahead? No way . . . ,' 7 January) that the IRA is pleased with the Downing Street declaration because of this one

sentence:

The British government agrees that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish.

Dr O'Brien then asserts: 'No previous British government has ever agreed to any proposition of that order.' But is that so? In November 1971, the British Prime Minister (Mr Heath) declared:

Many Catholics in Northern Ireland would like to see Northern Ireland unified with the South. That is understandable. It is legitimate that they should seek to further that aim by democratic and constitutional means. If, at some future date, the majority of the people in Northern Ireland want unification and express that desire in the appropriate constitutional manner, I do not believe any British government would stand in the way. But that is not what the majority want

today.

Did not those words of Mr Heath, more than 20 years ago, give the same message as the sentence quoted by Dr O'Brien from the Downing Street declaration?

Yours etc,

ROBIN DAY

London, SW1

7 January

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