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 Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon 3:31 pm, 22nd February 1995

I know that that has long been the dream of the hon. Gentleman, and the whole House knows the role that he has played in moving towards it.

The hon. Gentleman is right to emphasise the fact that there cannot be an agreement without taking the majority tradition in Northern Ireland entirely with it. Agreement cannot be imposed; it will not be imposed; it would not work if anyone sought to impose it.

One of the problems that one needs to try to deal with is the problem of old fears and of trust. That requires consensus, agreement and a lot of discussion. I know that some people are pessimistic about whether such agreements can he reached, and whether such progress can be made. If those pessimists had been confronted two years ago with today's situation, they would not have believed the changes that have taken place in Northern Ireland in the past two years.

They would not have believed that the joint declaration could be agreed; they would not have accepted that the joint framework document would be agreed, or that we would have six months of peace, or that it would be possible for any British Government to sit down and talk to the political representatives of the paramilitaries of both sides.

These are but a small example of the changes in Northern Ireland over the past two years. Heaven alone knows, there are difficulties enough ahead, but if we look at what has been done in the past two years and take the hurdles in the future one by one, with patience I believe that they can be overcome, trust can be forged and the old fears can be diluted. That is how I hope we shall all be able to move forward.