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Communique following meeting between John Major and John Bruton, 28 February 1996

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Text: Martin Melaugh ... Research: Fionnuala McKenna
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Complete text of Communique

COMMUNIQUE issued following the meeting between the Taoiseach, Mr John Bruton, TD, and the British Prime Minister, Mr John Major, MP, on Wednesday, 28 February, 1996.

THE Taoiseach and the Prime Minister had two hours of talks at No. 10 Downing Street today. The Taoiseach was accompanied by the Tanaiste, Mr Dick Spring, TD, and by the Minister for Justice, Mrs Nora Owen, TD. The Prime Minister was accompanied by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Right Honourable Patrick Mayhew, MP, and by his Ministers of State, the Right Honourable Michael Ancram, MP and the Right Honourable Sir John Wheeler, MP.

The Prime Minister and the Taoiseach noted with profound regret the statement announcing the ending of the IRA ceasefire and called for its immediate and unequivocal restoration.

They unreservedly condemned the murderous IRA attack on London's Docklands and subsequent acts of terrorism, for which there can never be any justification. They expressed sympathy for the victims and their common resolve to bring the perpetrators to justice, to do everything possible to protect the public from further such atrocities, and to cooperate intensively at all levels to these ends.

The Taoiseach and the Prime Minister confirmed the utter repudiation by the Irish and the British people of the use of violence for political ends. They re-affirmed their common determination that those who use or support such methods would not succeed in derailing the peace process which belongs to all the people of these islands. They resolved that neither violence, nor the threat of violence, would be allowed to influence the course of negotiations, or preparations for negotiations, leading to a lasting peaceful settlement.

The Prime Minister and the Taoiseach agreed that the IRA's abandonment of its announced cessation was a fundamental breach of the declared basis on which both Governments had engaged Sinn Fein in political dialogue. Accordingly, both Governments are agreed that the resumption of Ministerial dialogue with Sinn Fein and their participation in negotiations requires the restoration of the ceasefire of August, 1994.

The Taoiseach and the Prime Minister re-affirmed their commitment to work for a lasting peace and a comprehensive settlement on the basis of the fundamental principles shared by their two Governments and set out in the Downing Street Declaration and in the Joint Framework Document. They affirmed the fundamental priority they attach to securing the earliest possible inclusive negotiations to address comprehensively all the relevant relationships and issues in an inter-locking three-stranded process. They confirmed that such negotiations should include all relevant parties which establish a commitment to exclusively peaceful methods and which have shown that they abide by the democratic process. Having undertaken the intensive consultations and the elective process as set out below, all-party negotiations will be convened on Monday, 10 June, 1996.

The two Governments recalled that, as set out in the 28 November Communique, there had been intensive discussions among the two Governments and the Northern Ireland parties, in various configurations, on the basis, participation, structure, format and agenda of substantive all-party negotiations. The Prime Minister re-affirmed the British Government's view that, having taken account of the differing positions of the parties and the view of the International Body, an elective process would offer a viable direct and speedy route to all-party negotiations. The Prime Minister and the Taoiseach agreed that an elective process would have to be broadly acceptable and lead immediately and without further pre-conditions to the convening of all-party negotiations with a comprehensive agenda.

The Prime Minister and the Taoiseach agreed that details of an elective process were for the parties in Northern Ireland, together with the British Government, to determine. The Prime Minister confirmed that the necessary legislation for a broadly acceptable elective process would be processed as rapidly as possible.

The Taoiseach, for his part, while noting that the question of an elective processs and its nature were primarily a matter for the parties in Northern Ireland to determine, indicated that the Irish Government would support any proposal of that kind which, it was satisfied, was broadly acceptable to those parties, had an appropriate mandate and was within the three-stranded structure.

The Prime Minister and the Taoiseach agreed that the two Governments would conduct intensive multi-lateral consultations with the relevant Northern Ireland parties in whatever configuration was acceptable to those concerned, beginning on Monday 4 March and ending on Wednesday 13 March. The purpose of the consultations will be to:

    (a) reach wide-spread agreement on proposals for a broadly acceptable elective process leading directly and without pre-conditions to all-party negotiations on 10 June, 1996.

    (b) reach wide-spread agreement on the basis, participation, structure, format and agenda of substantive all-party negotiations; and

    (c) consider whether there might be advantage in holding a referendum in Northern Ireland with a parallel referendum held by the Irish Government in its own jurisdiction on the same day as in Northern Ireland. The purpose of such a referendum would be to mandate support for a process to create lasting stability, based on the repudiation of violence for any political purpose.

The two Governments will work to ensure that the consultations on the matters identified in paragraph 10 will lead to a fair and acceptable basis for the early launch of substantive all-party negotiations. The Taoiseach and the Prime Minister agreed that the two Governments would review the outcome of these consultations immediately after their conclusion on 13 March. Following that, the British Government will bring forward legislation on the elective process, based on a judgement on what seems most broadly acceptable, and decisions will be announced, as appropriate, on the other issues referred to in paragraph 10.

In the absence of the cessation of violence for which both Governments look, the two Governments affirmed their determination to continue to work in partnership with those parties which are exclusively committed to peaceful methods to secure a comprehensive negotiated settlement. The Taoiseach and the Prime Minister expressed their hope that all parties with an electoral mandate would be able to participate in all-party negotiations. They recognise that confidence building measures will be necessary. As one such measure, all participants would need to make clear at the beginning of the discussions for their total and absolute commitment to the principles of democracy and non-violence set out in the report of the International Body. They would also need to address, at that stage, its proposals on decommissioning. Confidence building would also require that the parties have reasurrance that a meaningful and inclusive process of negotiations is genuinely being offered to address the legitimate concerns of their traditions and the need for new political arrangements with which all can identify. The two Governments call upon Sinn Fein and the IRA to make Sinn Fein's participation in the process of such negotiations possible.

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