Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Peace lines: We talk to key people about IRA ceasefire

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The Telegraph's front page
Celebrations in west Belfast
A boy and a soldier
Policemen on patrol in 1994

Chris Kilpatrick talks to key people who reflect on the lead-up to the ceasefire 20 years ago and their thoughts on how the future was shaped.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

"It was the most important decision, not just in the last 20 years which has propelled this peace process forward, but in the last 100 years.

"It has totally demilitarised the situation in the north.

"And it has given people a life here.

"I think of all of the decisions that have been taken, if you are asking what was absolutely key and critical to end the war and end the conflict that has existed to the detriment of all of us for far too long, the most important decision of all of the decisions taken in the last 20 years was that decision.

"Because that has brought us to where we are today."

Former SDLP deputy leader Brid Rodgers

"I think the bottom line was they knew they couldn't win the war.

"Nationalist Ireland, particularly John Hume, gave them a credibility which they badly needed.

"The Irish Government were coming into play, and I think they were able to say to the IRA you're not on your own any more, you now have people prepared to help you into politics if you give up violence for good."

Former Ulster Unionist MP Lord Maginnis

"There was no way IRA activity was going to bring anything but further suffering.

"And as far as the IRA itself was concerned they were defeated – I was on the other side and I know they were defeated.

"It was an acceptance of reality and it does make me quite grumpy when I see history being rewritten 20 years on. We took things as they were announced with a grain of salt because there were so many false dawns that one never quite knew if this was simply another tactical move or whether in fact it was real.

"We lived in hope, we worked in hope.

"And I suppose at the end of the day we have something that's better than we had then, a great deal better – we are not having people being murdered."

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson

"There has always been an argument that loyalists reacted to the IRA.

"But the loyalists didn't react to the IRA at that particular time. Loyalists had already decided they were going to call a ceasefire, it was a question of when.

"The difficulty for loyalists at the time was that it wasn't one homogeneous group, there were a number of groups that had to be brought together. There were internal arguments about whether there should be ceasefires or not, but people actually thought there should be."

UDA leader Jackie McDonald

"I disagreed with it.

"The reason I disagreed was because the IRA was given time to tie up the loose ends.

"I said Joe (Bratty), Raymie (Elder), Ray Smallwoods have yet to be avenged. Because of the ceasefires and the work that has gone on since, how many lives have been saved? That is something we have to consider."

Father Gerry Reynolds

"Father Alec Reid was in that exchange and contact between Sinn Fein and the SDLP, and also with Albert Reynolds in Dublin.

"Alex had two basic drives within him; it was his faith that God wanted us to be at peace, God wanted us to be right in a relationship with one another and if we did what we possibly could ourselves, the divine hand in human history would help us on our way.

"He had great sense of the spirit of God working in the middle of all he was doing.

"And the other basic principle he had was common sense.

"You can't make peace without contact, you can't make peace without listening to one another and talking to one another."

Former UUP deputy leader John Taylor

"The word permanent was tremendously important because if it only implied it was a temporary ceasefire, well then people wouldn't trust it at all because they will come back to it.

"So you did have to have the word permanent.

"If the word permanent was there at least we would take a risk and run with it."

Former Secretary of State Peter Brooke

"A lot of problems were being solved in that period.

"The wall was coming down in Berlin, Israel was talking to the Palestinians, in South Africa remarkable things were occurring in terms of the ANC, and it seemed possible to me that Sinn Fein and the IRA might have been concerned if they were going to be the last unsolved problem. It was a stepping stone which had to be taken."

TUV leader Jim Allister

"The 1994 IRA ceasefire was the carefully choreographed outworking of secret and nefarious negotiations between murderers and the government of those they murdered.

"The unpalatable truth is that the IRA bombed its way to the negotiating table and ultimately were rewarded through the Belfast Agreement with a guaranteed seat in the government of the province they remain committed to destroy.

"Such, is the sordid genesis of the failing Stormont arrangements."

Security correspondent Brian Rowan

"August 1994 wasn't the end of the war, we know that now. I can remember that statement being read to me by a woman on the morning of August 31. She read the words 'a complete cessation of military operations'. I don't think any of us really knew what that day added up to. We know 20 years later that it was a beginning, not an end."

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