Heated Debate on the Northern Ireland Peace Process (1994)
The peace process is often considered to cover the events leading up to the 1994 Provisional IRA ceasefire, the end of most of the violence of the Troubles, the Good Friday (or Belfast) Agreement, and subsequent political developments. More: https://www.amazon.com/gp/search?ie=UTF8&tag=tra0c7-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=235f8181830f58d4ef26d6c8459996c4&camp=1789&creative=9325&index=books&keywords=northern%20ireland
In 1994, talks between the leaders of the two main Irish nationalist parties in Northern Ireland, John Hume of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin (SF), continued. These talks led to a series of joint statements on how they might be brought to an end. The talks had been going on since the late 1980s and had secured the backing of the Irish Government through an intermediary, Father Alec Reid.
In November it was revealed that the British government had also been in talks with the Provisional IRA, although they had long denied it.
On Wednesday 15 December 1993, the Joint Declaration on Peace (more commonly known as the Downing Street Declaration) was issued by John Major, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Albert Reynolds, then Taoiseach (Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland), on behalf of the British and Irish governments. This included statements that:
The British government had no “selfish strategic or economic” interest in Northern Ireland. This statement would lead, eventually, to the repeal of the Government of Ireland Act 1920.
The British government would uphold the right of the people of Northern Ireland to decide between the Union with Great Britain or a united Ireland.
The people of the island of Ireland, North and South, had the exclusive right to solve the issues between North and South by mutual consent.
The Irish government would try to address unionist fears of a united Ireland by amending the Irish Constitution according to the consent principle. This would lead, eventually, to the modification of the Articles 2 and 3.
A united Ireland could only be brought about by peaceful means.
Peace must involve a permanent end to the use of, or support for, paramilitary violence.
Ian Paisley of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) opposed the Declaration, James Molyneaux of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) argued that it was not a “sell-out” of unionists, and Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin requested dialogue with the governments and clarification of the Declaration.
On 6 April 1994 The Provisional IRA announced a three-day Ceasefire or “Temporary Cessation of Hostilities” to run from Wednesday 6 April — Friday 8 April 1994.
Five months later, on Wednesday 31 August 1994, the Provisional IRA announced a “cessation of military operations” from midnight. Albert Reynolds, the Irish Taoiseach, said that he accepted the IRA statement as implying a permanent ceasefire. Many unionists were sceptical. UUP leader James Molyneaux, in a rare slip, declared “This (the ceasefire) is the worst thing that has ever happened to us.”
In the following period there were disputes about the permanence of the ceasefire, whether parties linked to paramilitaries should be included in talks, and the rate of “normalisation” in Northern Ireland. Loyalist bombings and shootings, and punishment beatings from both sides, continued.
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