Northern Ireland (Framework Documents)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 22nd February 1995.

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Photo of Mr John Hume Mr John Hume , Foyle 3:31 pm, 22nd February 1995

Could I begin by placing on record on behalf of myself, my party and the people we represent our deepest appreciation to the Prime Minister and the Government for the enormous effort they have made, and for putting this problem at centre stage and at the top of their agenda, because this is the greatest human problem facing the Government and the peoples of these islands? May I also pay tribute to the leaders of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties for placing the matter above party politics—where it belongs—so that we can have a totally unanimous approach to tackling this serious problem?

Does the Prime Minister agree that, when all the words have been taken away from the document published today, the fundamental message is that the problem we must solve in Ireland is not that we are a divided piece of earth but that we are a divided people? Does he agree that that can be resolved only by agreement, and that all the resources to which both Governments are now committing themselves should be committed to promoting that agreement? Agreement threatens no section of our people.

I say to the Unionist people that I understand their fears and tensions, given the 25 years which we have been through. We have said before that this problem cannot be resolved without the participation and agreement of the Unionist people, because of their geography and numbers. We know that they do not trust Governments. All they are now being asked to do is trust themselves, and to come to the table. If they do not agree with this, they should come to the table and join all the parties and both Governments as soon as possible, to begin the difficult process of reaching agreement.

Let us all recognise that all our past attitudes have brought us to where we are, and have built those terrible walls in Belfast. If those walls are ever to come down, all sides must re-examine those past attitudes and come forward with new arrangements and relationships, which respect our differences but which at last harness all our energies to spill our sweat together, and not our blood, so that the next century will be the first century in the island's history in which we have no killings on our streets, and no young people have to go to other lands to earn a living.