The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1997-2001 Parliament

Mr Major’s Commons Speech on Northern Ireland – 22 November 1999

The text of Mr Major’s Commons Speech on Northern Ireland on the 22nd November 1999.


Mr Major: Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has taken a gamble this afternoon, but a justifiable gamble, which I wholeheartedly support? After last week’s welcome statements from the Ulster Unionist party, Sinn Fein and the IRA, it is now probable that we are coming towards the endgame and drifting slowly but inexorably towards a permanent settlement in Northern Ireland. I fervently hope that that is the case, but he will know that difficulties may still lie ahead. There may still even be violence from fringe groups away from the main parties. We need to prepare ourselves for that possibility from people who, even at this stage, may wish to wreck the prospects of a better life for people in Northern Ireland.

May I make one separate point to the Secretary of State? It is absolutely right now to nominate Ministers to the power sharing Executive, but there will be many who still have doubts about that, perhaps in Northern Ireland, and it is important that disillusion should not set in and that the Executive should be able to make successful advances. I hope that the Government will offer them whatever support they can.
The whole House will be aware that one of the difficulties that has so often underpinned what we have come to know as the troubles has been a form of economic deprivation on which the men of violence have fed so frequently. May I suggest that, in working with the new power sharing Executive, the right hon. Gentleman seek to revive the idea of investment conferences to bring in the wall of money that I, for one, believe is waiting to be invested in Northern Ireland? In that way, the everyday citizen in Northern Ireland, at a time of hope, can see the practical and tangible advantages of co-operation in government and a better life for them and their children in future?