Northern Ireland--Between War and Peace: The Political Future of Northern Ireland

By Paul Bew; Henry Patterson et al. | Go to book overview

APPENDIX

Since this book was written, there have been elections both in Britain and the Republic of Ireland. The following (edited) speeches, by Tony Blair in May 1997, and by Bertie Ahern in February 1995, give a clear picture of the perspectives of the two prime ministers who now take responsibility for the affairs of Ireland North and South.


TONY BLAIR, 16 MAY 1997

It is no accident that this is my first official visit outside London. I said before the election that Northern Ireland was every bit as important for me as for my predecessor. I will honour that pledge in full.

We know the situation here is fragile and fraught. There may be only one chance given to a new government to offer a way forward. Our very newness gives possibilities. But governments are not new forever. There are times when to calculate the risks too greatly is to do nothing; there are times too when a political leader must follow his instinct about what is right and fair.

Our destination is clear: to see in place a fair political settlement in Northern Ireland – one that lasts, because it is based on the will and the consent of the people here.

It is a long march; and every footstep has its pitfalls. But when there is not movement, hope falters and we are left surrounded by the ancient grievances returning to destroy us.

I am convinced that the time is right finally to put the past behind us and meet the deep thirst of the people of Northern Ireland for peace, normality and prosperity.

My message is simple. I am committed to Northern Ireland. I am committed to the principle of consent. My agenda is not a united Ireland – and I wonder just how many see it as a realistic possibility in the foreseeable future. Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom as long as a majority here wish.

-217-

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