Fine Gael Wexford Senator, Michael D’Arcy, has called on Seanad Eireann to extend an invitation to former British Prime Minister, John Major, to speak before the House on his role in the Northern Ireland peace process. Senator D’Arcy made his comments following the 20th anniversary of the Downing Street Declaration of December 1993. The Declaration was the key precursor to the IRA ceasefire of August 1994 and the subsequent ceasefire by the Combined Loyalist Military Command and was key to produce a positive change of attitude by the both sides towards a negotiated settlement.
While it was heartening to see John Major being honoured in Iveagh House, the headquarters of our Department of Foreign Affairs last week, it was disappointing that there was not more coverage of the event.
“The history of the peace process is still being written and I believe that a conversation needs to be had about the role of John Major in a peace process which has been the most significant political achievement in the recent history of these islands.
“Major pushed for peace before it was politically popular to do so and in doing so took a significant political risk. It is worth remembering that unlike Tony Blair, whose contribution to the peace process is rightly acclaimed, John Major faced stern political opposition within his own party to the very concept of talking to Sinn Fein and the IRA. As such, Major took a far greater political gamble than any other mainstream political figure in the UK. He also faced vehement opposition from the DUP and many in the then dominant Ulster Unionist Party.
“I have no doubt that John Major paved the way for Tony Blair in helping to broker and deliver the Good Friday Agreement which has provided a platform for peace and the emergence of normality in Northern Ireland. I believe that John Major deserves more recognition for his role in the Northern Ireland peace process and I would like to see Seanad Eireann extend an invitation to Mr Major to speak about it from his perspective.