Belfast Telegraph

David Cameron says he faced IRA members during Stormont negotiations in 2014

For the Record
For the Record

By Mairead Holland

Former Prime Minister David Cameron has described how he came face to face with members of the IRA during talks at Stormont in 2014.

The revelations were made in his autobiography, For the Record, which went on sale yesterday.

Mr Cameron resigned on June 24, 2016 after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

In his wide-ranging memoirs, he recalled how during negotiations in Belfast, which eventually led to the formation of the Stormont House Agreement, "a group of men turned up in the middle of the night".

"They blew in talking loudly, wearing football scarves and leather jackets, and disappeared upstairs," he said.

When he asked who they were, he was told, 'Ah, that'll be the IRA to give their view on the deal'.

Mr Cameron wrote: "Everyone else seemed to be willing to accept this, and so was I if it meant peace and progress."

The former Conservative leader was outlining the events between October and December 2014, when new talks had been convened against the background of a series of problems in Northern Ireland.

The decision by Belfast City Council in 2012 to stop flying the Union Flag over City Hall 365 days a year had led to "disgraceful attacks on the police by loyalists", he said, and an Orange parade caused serious rioting in 2013.

Sinn Fein, meanwhile, were refusing to accept the UK Government's welfare reforms, "putting enormous pressure on an already struggling Stormont budget".

Mr Cameron also recalled that at one of the meetings, then Taoiseach Enda Kenny's chief of staff gave him "frank advice" on how to handle the next phase of the talks.

"Prime Minister, just tell them they're not getting any more fecking money", was the suggestion proffered.

The 52-year-old, who served as Prime Minister from 2010, also revealed that when Sinn Fein's then-leader Gerry Adams turned up at the talks on December 11 for the first time and later branded it "the most cack-handed process" he had ever known, he (David Cameron) replied: "How would you know, Gerry? You haven't been here."

Mr Cameron left the talks after a few hours. At the time, Downing Street rejected suggestions that it was so he could attend his wife Samantha's birthday party, which was described by Labour as an Ibiza-style "rave".

Mr Cameron doesn't directly address the claims, but adds: "It was clear that no agreement was even close. So I left.

"This was a shock to everyone, so used were they to Blair and Brown hanging around for days. I wanted to signal that we were in different circumstances.

"Walking out worked. The negotiating team reached the Stormont House Agreement just before lunchtime on December 23. It covered welfare, budgets, flags and parading, as well as agreeing far-reaching new bodies to help Northern Ireland address the legacy of its troubled past."

Mr Cameron added that despite the collapse of power-sharing in January 2017, and Brexit "unsettling a large section of nationalism", he believes Northern Ireland can "truly flourish".

"When I was PM I didn't just see the political Northern Ireland of Hillsborough Castle, I saw everyday, 21st century Northern Ireland," he wrote.

"I met entrepreneurs building a tech hub there, church leaders building bridges there, film-makers using the province as their backdrop and tourists flocking to its beauty spots. I saw just as much passion about the future as there is about the past."

He also said fears of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, "potentially inflaming tensions and undoing years of hard-won peace" was one of the key reasons for wanting Britain to remain in the EU.

"Those who claim it was not raised at the time conveniently forget this," he added.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph