The Downing Street Declaration (1993)


On December 15th 1993 the British prime minister, John Major, and the Irish Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, issued a Joint Declaration on Peace, also referred to as the Downing Street Declaration. In this document they affirmed their commitment to the principle of self determination in Northern Ireland, while calling for a renewal of the peace process:


 

[We] acknowledge that the most urgent and important issue facing the people of Ireland, North and South, and the British and Irish Governments together, is to remove the conflict, to overcome the legacy of history and to heal the divisions which have resulted, recognising the absence of a lasting and satisfactory settlement of relationships between the peoples of both islands has contributed to continuing tragedy and suffering…

 

The prime minister, on behalf of the British Government, reaffirms that they will uphold the democratic wish of the greater number of the people of Northern Ireland, on the issue of whether they prefer to support the Union or a sovereign united Ireland… He reiterates on behalf of the British government that they have no selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland. Their primary interest is to see peace, stability and reconciliation established by agreement among all the people inhabit the island; and they will work together with the Irish government to achieve such an agreement, which will embrace the totality of relationships…

 

The British government agree that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively, to exercise their right of self determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish. They reaffirm as a binding obligation that they will, for their part, introduce the necessary legislation to give effect to this, or equally to any measure of agreement on future relationships in Ireland, which the people living in Ireland may themselves freely so determine without external impediment…

 

The Taoiseach, on behalf of the Irish government, considers that the lessons of Irish history, and especially of Northern Ireland, show that stability and well being will not be found under any political system which is refused allegiance or rejected on grounds of identity by a significant minority of those governed by it. For this reason, it would be wrong to attempt to impose a united Ireland, in the absence of the freely given consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland…

 

Both governments accept that Irish unity would be achieved only by those who favour this outcome persuading those who do not, peacefully and without coercion or violence, and that, if in the future a majority of the people of Northern Ireland are so persuaded, both governments will support and give legislative effect to their wish…

 

The British and Irish governments will seek, along with the Northern Ireland constitutional parties through a process of political dialogue, to create institutions and structures which, while respecting the diversity of the people of Ireland, would enable them to work together in all areas of common interest. This will help over a period to build the trust necessary to end past divisions, leading to an agreed and peaceful future…

 

The British and Irish governments reiterate that the achievement of peace must involve a permanent end to the use of, or support for, paramilitary violence. They confirm that, in these circumstances, democratically mandated parties which establish a commitment to exclusively peaceful methods, and which have shown that they abide by the democratic process, are free to participate fully in democratic politics and to join in dialogue in due course between the governments and the political parties on the way ahead.