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Reynolds ‘uncertain’ over political realities

Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and Prime Minister John Major outside 10 Downing Street in December 1993
Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and Prime Minister John Major outside 10 Downing Street in December 1993

By Michael McHugh

Former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds' grasp on the realities of political life in Northern Ireland may have been uncertain, British officials said.

The Fianna Fail leader was impatient for progress in February 1992.

He did not have the staunchly republican background of previous Taoisigh like Charles Haughey but his Cabinet was more sympathetic to republicanism, official records showed. An historical briefing from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stated: "It is uncertain what grasp Mr Reynolds has of realities in Northern Ireland.

"The commitment to work for a new path for peace might cover ideas for imposing a solution which bear little relation to the realities of what would be accepted in Northern Ireland.

"Mr Reynolds believes problems have solutions and will want to identify one, perhaps impatiently."

The briefing acknowledged the political and public pressures facing Mr Reynolds on Northern Ireland.

It said: "Unlike Mr Haughey, Mr Reynolds does not have a background of republican sympathies.

"But his Cabinet includes more members with such a background than Mr Haughey's did.

"Mr Reynolds is likely to give his ministers greater freedom of manoeuvre than Mr Haughey did."

British officials believed the prospect of an early Irish election in a bid to achieve a clear Fianna Fail majority may create inhibitions around Northern Ireland.

The note added: "It is unclear how much Mr Reynolds might be prepared to risk on new policy lines.

"The essence of his public remarks so far has been continuity.

"The people in his party opposed to change are precisely those he will have to face if he is to alter the law on divorce and contraception."

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