Letter: Why Ulster Unionists gave Anglo-Irish declaration a cool reception

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Sir: The issue of a joint declaration on Northern Ireland by 'the two governments' (report, 16 December) is symbolic in itself of the demise of Ulster Unionism in the years since the IRA began its campaign of violence. Twenty-five years ago, a different Downing Street declaration was issued by two governments, only then it was the government of the United Kingdom and the government of Northern Ireland. Yesterday, it was the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic.

Under the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, it was accepted, over the heads of the people of Northern Ireland, that the Irish Republic had a right to be consulted about affairs in that particular part of the UK. Now, in 1993, Albert Reynolds and John Major are regarded as equal authorities on Northern Ireland. Is this not de facto joint sovereignty? John Hume has indeed achieved an all- Ireland nationalist agenda.

This nationalist agenda is illustrated further by the widespread criticism that has been directed at the UK government for its 'understanding' with the Ulster Unionist Party. It is argued that such an understanding jeopardises the Government's neutral position and its relationship with Dublin. At the same time, however, it is accepted without question that the government of the Irish Republic is allowed to maintain an openly nationalist stance and its special relationship with John Hume and the SDLP.

The joint declaration itself is littered with nationalist phrases such as 'the Irish people', 'the people of Ireland', 'the entire island of Ireland' and 'future relationships in Ireland', while Northern Ireland's relationship with the rest of the UK is virtually ignored. The document shows no understanding of the Unionist people, who identify naturally with Britain, and are simply not interested in the Irish Republic.

It is little wonder that Unionist reaction to the document has been decidedly cool.

Yours faithfully,


Newtownabbey, Co Antrim

16 December