Northern Ireland quotations

This collection of Northern Ireland quotations contains statements from leading political figures, writers and historians. It has been compiled by Alpha History authors. If you would like to suggest a quotation for this page, please contact Alpha History.

The background to Northern Ireland
Civil rights and growing unrest
The British intervention
The Long War
The road to peace

Background to Northern Ireland

“Nationalism, as known to Tone and Emmett, is almost dead in the country, and a spurious substitute, as taught by the Irish Parliamentary Party, exists. The generation now growing old is the most decadent generation nationally since the Norman invasion, and the Irish patriotic spirit will die forever unless a blood sacrifice is made in the next few years.”
Sean MacDermott, Irish Republican Brotherhood, 1914

“All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born.”
W.B Yeats, Easter 1916

“I know all the English arguments. They only take account of England’s position. It is quite natural that they should only take account of England’s position, but they are all founded upon the English delusion that Ireland is a part of England.”
Captain D. D. Sheehan, Irish nationalist, 1918

“The speeches heard from Northern Orangemen remind one of the unrolling of a mummy. All old bones and rotten rags.”
Sir Edward Carson, Ulster Unionist leader

“Drogheda beware – If in the vicinity a policeman is shot, five of the leading Sinn Feiners will be shot. It is not coercion – it is an eye for an eye. We are not drink-maddened savages as we have been described in the Dublin rags. We are not out for loot. We are inoffensive to women. We are as humane as other Christians, but we have restrained ourselves too long. Are we to lie down while our comrades are being shot down in cold blood by the corner boys and ragamuffins of Ireland? We say ‘Never’ and all the inquiries will not stop our desire for revenge. Stop the shooting of the police or we will lay low every house that smells of Sinn Fein.”
Black and Tan poster, 1920

“We used to say that we could not trust an Irish parliament in Dublin to do justice to the Protestant minority. Let us take care that that reproach can no longer be made against your parliament… let them see that the Catholic minority have nothing to fear from a Protestant majority.”
Sir Edward Carson, Ulster Unionist leader, 1921

“On these unfortunate beings the fury of the Orange Specials and Orange mobs falls daily and nightly. These people have committed no offence unless it is an offence to be born a Catholic… On the simple charge of being Catholic, hundreds of families are being continually driven from their houses… In these operations the Specials provide the petrol, firearms and immunity from prosecution.”
Manchester Guardian, May 1921

“I have always said that I am an Orangeman first and a politician and a member of this parliament afterwards… All I boast is that we have a Protestant parliament and a Protestant state.”
Sir James Craig, Northern Ireland prime minister, 1934

Civil rights and growing unrest

“The Unionist Party should make it clear that Loyalists have the first choice of jobs.”
Robert Babington, Unionist Party member, 1961

“I regret to report that if you want a house in the town of Dungannon, County Tyrone, your chances will depend to a great extent on what church you belong to.”
Ken Graham, journalist

“Our ignorance about Northern Ireland is astonishing. Some of us have been there and experienced this atmosphere of distrust, discrimination, plotting and hate. The silence in England about conditions in ‘Ulster’ almost amounts to criminal negligence.”
Martin Ennals, British human rights campaigner, 1964

“I grew up in a situation of such degradation and unemployment that the life our people lived was no life at all… I want something better for my children than this.”
Sean Cronin, IRA volunteer

“I joined the civil rights marches because it was obvious that some people were being treated better than others. We used to accept bad housing and bad jobs. Most of my friends just went to England and didn’t bother looking for work here. I had never voted and neither had my parents, brothers or sisters. There was no point, you couldn’t really change anything. The marches awoke a sense of injustice in me and a determination to be treated equally.”
An unnamed Catholic resident of Derry

“I was a marked man before the march started. These were stormtrooper tactics at their worst. They hit me once, but that wasn’t enough, they had to have another go, and this was the cause of the wound which had to be stitched.”
Nationalist MP Gerry Fitt on the NICRA march, October 1968

“It was all ‘the Catholics this and the Catholics that’ [with Loyalists] living in poverty and us lording it over them. People looked around and said, ‘What, are they talking about, us? With the damp running down the walls and our houses not fit to live in.’
A Protestant housewife in 1969

“It is frightfully hard to explain to Protestants that if you give Roman Catholics a good job and a good house they will live like Protestants because they will see neighbours with cars and television sets; they [Catholics] will refuse to have 18 children. But if a Roman Catholic is jobless and lives in the most ghastly hovel he will rear 18 children on National Assistance. If you treat Roman Catholics with due consideration and kindness they will live like Protestants in spite of the authoritative nature of their Church.”
Terence O’Neill, 1969

“We refused to accept the politicians’ logic that the problems could be seen in terms of Catholic versus Protestant… The civil rights march was interested in people’s needs.”
Bernadette Devlin, 1969

“The civil rights people don’t believe in civil rights at all, they’re just a bunch of republican rebels, that’s what they are. Let’s be very clear about this, they have no time for law and order, they have no time for this country and they mean to destroy this country, and we mean to see that this country will not be destroyed.”
Ian Paisley, January 1969

“Showers of rocks crashed round us. I was in the middle of the fourth row and bent double in an attempt to avoid the hail of missiles, when a middle-aged man in a tweed coat, brandishing what seemed to be a chair leg dashed from the left-hand side of the road, hit me on the back, then pulled down the hood of my anorak and struck me on the head. I then tried to crawl away, but, teeth bared, he hit me again on the spot on my skull… I fell, and a fellow marcher picked me up and dragged me up the road. I passed out, and came round in the ambulance on the way to Alnagelvin Hospital.”
Judith McGuffin on the Burntollet Bridge ambush, 1969

“Our investigations have led us to the unhesitating conclusion that on the night of January 4th-5th, a number of policemen were guilty of misconduct which involved assault and battery, malicious damage to property in the streets in the mainly Catholic Bogside area.”
Cameron Report, 1969

The British intervention

“Immediately after the fighting, relations between the [British] Army and most of the people of the area were very good. At Butcher Gate, William Street and other army positions at the edge of Bogside, [Catholic] women squabbled about whose turn it was to take the soldiers their tea.”
Eamonn McCann on the deployment of British soldiers in 1969

“The army moved in and battered its way up the Shankill Road with a bloodthirsty enthusiasm. In the shooting two Protestants were killed and a dozen wounded. Many others were beaten of kicked unconscious. Who in the Bogside can doubt that at last law and order were being administered impartially?”
Eamonn McCann on the 1969 Shankill Road riots

“What kind of Ulster do you want? A happy, respected province or a place torn apart by riots and demonstrations?”
Terence O’Neill, 1969

“Free Derry Corner represents to me a significant symbol from the late 1960s when the ordinary people of Derry were no longer prepared to tolerate the oppression and discrimination inflicted upon them by the establishment of the time.”
Dr Raymond McClean, Irish Nationalist politician

“Sons of Ulster, stalwart B-men
Closed now is your stirring page
Ended is your valiant story
To placate an unjust rage.
Half a lifetime’s blameless record
Cast aside by scheming men
And the work of years extinguished
By the politician’s pen.”
Song for the B Specials, circa 1970

“I remember running down and seeing the soldiers had sealed off William Street. I remember being fascinated by all these soldiers with their helmets and rifles and backpacks. I was totally amazed at them and excited by them. I said ‘I am going to be a soldier someday’. [But] I didn’t join that particular army, no. I ended up joining the opposition.”
Hugh McMonagle, IRA volunteer

“If the bigger guerrilla war can be said to have its moment of violent birth at any one specific place, it was on a street corner on the Ballymurphy housing estate [in April 1970].”
Simon Winchester, British journalist

“There was no way at that time that the IRA could have shot Brits or policemen. They couldn’t have sold it. The reaction of people would have been ‘God almighty, did we produce people who are capable of doing that’?”
Danny Morrison, Sinn Fein leader, on the events of 1970

“The place was saturated with tear gas, children were coughing… I think the major effect of the Falls curfew was that it gave the community… the opportunity to see the IRA as their saviours and the British army as the enemy.”
A British private on the Falls Road curfew, 1970

“For God’s sake bring me a large Scotch… what a bloody awful country”.
British politician Reginald Maudling, after visiting Northern Ireland in 1970

“What they did not include was a single Loyalist. Although the UVF had begun the killing and bombing, this organisation was left untouched, as were other violent Loyalist satellite organisations such as Tara, the Shankill Defence Association and the Ulster Protestant Volunteers… Faulkner was urged by the British to include a few Protestants in the trawl but he refused.”
Tim Pat Coogan, Irish journalist, on the 1971 internments

“It was the general policy to deprive men of sleep during the early days of the operation.”
The Compton Report on police brutality in Northern Ireland, 1971

“By mid-December 1971, 1576 people had been arrested by the army under the Special Powers Act, virtually all of them Catholic.”
Sunday Times, 1972

“Why the hell should we talk to him [Brian Faulkner]? We told him internment would result in the alienation of the entire minority community. Why should we change our policy when we have been proved correct and he has been proved wrong?”
Nationalist MP Austin Currie, January 1972

“Our route was blocked by a cordon of police about 300 yards from the starting point… There were no exits so we were trapped.”
Eamonn McCann on ‘Bloody Sunday’ 1972

“I was one of more than a thousand people lying flat on their faces as the shooting continued. Pinned to the ground, it was impossible to tell who fired the first shots.”
Daily Telegraph reporter on ‘Bloody Sunday’, 1972

“They were shooting at a fleeing crowd going in direction of Free Derry Corner. I noticed then there was a young boy bleeding in the car park in the rear of Rossville St. Flats. He didn’t appear to have anything in his hands.”
Patrick Harkin, witness

“It was a massacre. I saw no one shooting at troops. If anybody had been, I would have seen it. I saw only the Army shooting. The British Army should hang its head in shame after today’s disgusting violence. They shot indiscriminately and everywhere around them without any provocation. I was administering the last rites to a boy about 15 who had been shot by soldiers in Rossville Street.”
Father Denis Bradley, a Catholic priest, on ‘Bloody Sunday’

“Well it was Sunday Bloody Sunday, when they shot the people there
The cries of thirteen martyrs filled the Free Derry air
Is there anyone amongst you? Dare to blame it on the kids?
Not a soldier boy was bleeding when they nailed the coffin lids.”
John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Sunday Bloody Sunday, 1972

“There was no general breakdown in army discipline… soldiers who identified armed gunmen fired on them in accordance with the standing orders. At one end of the scale, some soldiers showed a high degree of responsibility, at the other … firing bordered on the reckless.
The Widgery Report on ‘Bloody Sunday’, 1972

“The time scale within which Lord Widgery produced his report meant that he was not able to consider all the evidence which might have been available. For example, he did not receive any evidence from the wounded who were still in hospital; and he did not consider individually substantial numbers of eye-witness accounts provided to his Inquiry in the early part of March 1972. Since his report was published, much new material has come to light about the events of that day. This material includes new eye-witness accounts, new ballistic material and new medical evidence.”
Tony Blair, British prime minister, 1998

“What happened on Bloody Sunday strengthened the Provisional IRA and increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the army.”
The 2010 Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday

“Probably the greater influence on me, just in regard to the development of my own politics, were obviously the pogroms. I was living in Belfast when Loyalists bombed McGuirk’s Bar and 15 Catholics were killed. On reflection I know that had a substantial impact on me because some of the people were friends and neighbours. And of course the massacre in Derry, Bloody Sunday, had a massive influence on me.”
Bobby Storey, IRA leader

The Long War

“When it is politically costly for the British to remain in Ireland, they’ll go. It won’t be triggered until a large number of British soldiers are killed – and that’s what’s going to happen.”
Danny Morrison, IRA leader

“The Provisional [IRA] gunmen were usually unemployed, working class Catholics, some of whom would probably have been ordinary criminals if not for the movement… The greatest single factor in their joining the Provisional IRA was a family connection… They were mostly young, under 23, and those who survived did so because they were street-wise and cunning.”
An intelligence report on the IRA, 1972

“I have the lowest possible opinion of [IRA volunteers]… They were out and out cowards; they hardly ever mounted an attack unless they were 100 per cent certain in their minds that there was no possible retaliation… There’s not a single IRA man I know of who ever deliberately, knowingly put his life at risk. He always tried to do it in a way that was risk-fre and I don’t count that as being soldierly.”
Alistair Irwin, British lieutenant-general

“The world recognises that the Provisionals are the greatest guerrilla fighters the world has ever seen.”
IRA statement, July 1972

“I’m not particularly motivated by religion. I don’t buy this British government idea that the problems in the North are to do with religion, a religious divide and so on. There are very clear political, historical and economic reasons for what’s gone on in the North. It’s not down to two particular groups from a religious perspective having a difficulty with one another and the British government are the thin line in between or the meat in the sandwich. I don’t buy all of that.”
Bobby Storey, IRA leader

“I wanted to be involved… because our whole community felt that we were under attack. I wanted to be part of that defence. From then on in, I got involved.”
Brendan Hughes, IRA member

“There was a feeling of comradeship and trust between those of us who had been through hundreds of hours of negotiations, and a sense of almost moral purpose.”
Brian Faulkner on the Sunningdale Agreement

“Mr Faulkner says it’s ‘hands across the border to Dublin’. I say if they don’t behave themselves in the South, it will be shots across the border.”
Ian Paisley after the Sunningdale Agreement

“I am very happy about the bombings in Dublin. There is a war with the Free State and now we are laughing at them.”
UDA spokesman Sammy Smyth on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings that killed 33 people

“These powers are draconian. In combination they are unprecedented in peacetime. I believe they are fully justified to meet the clear and present dangers.”
British Home Secretary Roy Jenkins on the Prevention of Terrorism Act

“The Prevention of Terrorism Act was a racist piece of legislation [because it] applied to Irish people. How would the American public react to legislation passed by Congress that only applied to Italian people or Israeli people? It’s absolutely absurd… an example of the whole blasé attitude of [British] contempt for human rights in regard to Irish people.”
Paul Hill, one of the Guildford Four

“Then when they were putting the bomb into the van and it went off and they started to murder us. It went from a happy, good atmosphere to murderous. They opened the gates of hell.”
Stephen Travers, survivor of the 1975 Miami Showband killings

“A car had gone over a hedge and Rachel [McLernon] and her friends went to help whoever was inside… At that moment an IRA bomb exploded and Rachel and [her brother] Robert were blown to bits. I remember the face of Rachel in the mortuary when I went to identify her. She had become engaged to be married that day and she was a beauty queen. I looked down and saw half of her face blown off. Her brother was in a small plastic bag stacked against a table because there wasn’t sufficient of him left. As I looked upon them I can assure you there was nothing glorious and nothing beautiful about the handiwork of terrorism.”
Unionist MP William McCrea on the death of his cousins in 1976

“We set out to train ourselves in such a way… that we didn’t give the impression to the other side that we were slack, in other words, you would never find a soldier looking down at his feet when he was on patrol, you would never find a soldier who was carrying his rifle in anything other than an alert manner, you would never find a soldier who wasn’t metaphorically and physically on the balls of his feet. I know, from personal observation, that other units weren’t quite so particular about that and if you’re a terrorist, you look out for the hard objects and you stay away from them, you go for the softer targets.”
An officer from the 3rd Battlion Scottish Regiment

“The ‘terrorist campaign’ is a guerrilla war between the Nationalist population and an occupying army… The use of the label ‘terrorist’ is designed to prevent people thinking about the real situation in Ireland. Too often people fear that to criticise the [British] army means ‘supporting terrorism’. But Britain is waging a war in Ireland and the Provisional IRA exists today because the Nationalist community has had to take arms to defend itself in that war.”
A pro-IRA newspaper, 1977

“The IRA are gangsters and gunmen… clearly and decisively rejected by the vast majority of the community of Northern Ireland.”
Roy Mason, Northern Ireland Secretary, 1977

“Northern Ireland is as British as Finchley.”
Margaret Thatcher, 1981

“There is no such thing as political murder, political bombing or political violence. We will not compromise on this. There will be no political status.”
Margaret Thatcher, 1981

“The biggest bastard we have ever known.”
Sinn Fein’s Danny Morrison on Margaret Thatcher

“There can never be peace in Ireland until the foreign oppressive British presence is removed, leaving all the Irish people as a unit to control their own affairs and determine their own destinies as a sovereign people, free in mind and body, separate and distinct physically, culturally and economically.”
Bobby Sands, 1981

“We were led to believe that only a minority of Catholics supported violence. To Protestants the hunger strike showed that Catholics were prepared to support the gunmen who murdered their fellow citizens.”
Frank Millar, Official Unionist Party

“He knows that if he dies, through his death, there will be so much anger stored up in the Irish people that it will fuel the struggle for the next ten years.”
Danny Morrison on Bobby Sands

“Ten people had the courage to stand by their country, to the point of dying for it. The H block issue became a worldwide issue. The Republican movement gained enormously in the number of people who joined, in favourable publicity and in finance.”
Daithi O’Conaill, Sinn Fein

“Would you like to try a cheeseburger Bobby Sands?
Would you like to try a cheeseburger Bobby Sands?
Would you like to try a cheeseburger?
You dirty melly Fenian rebel-loving fucker
Would you like to try a cheeseburger Bobby Sands?”
Loyalist song, circa 1981

“When Bobby Sands died many of us felt it’s back to square one. If you tried to call a peace rally now you wouldn’t get anyone to come. There is far more bitterness and a feeling of anti-Britishness.”
Mairead Corrigan, Women’s Peace Movement, 1981

“Armed struggle is a necessary and morally correct form of resistance in the Six Counties against a government whose presence is rejected by the vast majority of the Irish people… There are those who tell us that the British government will not be moved by armed struggle. As has been said before, the history of Ireland and of British colonial involvement throughout the world tells us that they will not be moved by anything else.”
Gerry Adams, 1983

“My reaction [to Adams’ 1983 election to the British parliament] was almost one of despair, that they were going to elect someone whom we considered to be a terrorist and who was not going to play any part at Westminster. I had no doubts at all that he belonged to the Provisional IRA. I think he summed up the Armalite and the ballot box [strategy] completely. What a waste the whole thing was.”
Peter Brooke, Britain’s Secretary for State for Northern Ireland, on Gerry Adams

“This attack has failed. All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.”
Margaret Thatcher following the Brighton Hotel Bombing, 1984

“Today we were unlucky. But remember, we only have to be lucky once – you will have to be lucky always.”
IRA statement on the Brighton Hotel bombing

“Where do the terrorists operate from? From the Irish Republic! Where do the terrorists return to for sanctuary? To the Irish Republic! And yet Mrs. Thatcher tells us that the Republic must have some say in our Province. We say never, never, never, never!”
Ian Paisley, 1985

“South Down… I spent all my holidays as a boy in that area. But then the IRA burned down my father’s house and I no longer had the privilege of spending my holidays there. I have been back many times since, however, and at the first meeting I attended there I mentioned that incident. I said to the people, “I’m sorry you burned down my home, otherwise you’d have seen more of me.” A little old lady at the back shouted out, “It’s a terrible shame.”
Ian Paisley

“Republicanism and Republicans are not geared for a long war and that’s why in the past IRA campaigns have probably lasted six years maximum… What happens is because we’re so small in number, people are killed, people go to prison, families become burnt out, so the moment has to call a halt because resources dry out.”
Marian Price, Real IRA member

“We cannot have justice and peace in Northern Ireland, because we do not have a society capable of upholding them.”
Gerry Adams, 1986

“I was sanguine about our role and justifiably proud of the impact we made… Yes, we were ‘at war’ with the terrorists, but were also realistic enough to realise that this war was not going to be won on the streets… a satisfactory political situation was the only way out of it, what had become in the mid-1980s a ‘no win’ situation for both sides.”
Mike Dent, British colonel

“It should be recognised that the Army did not ‘win’ in any recognisable way, rather than achieved its desired end-state, which allowed a political process to be established without unacceptable levels of intimidation. Security force operations suppressed the level of violence to a level which the population could live with, and with which the RUC and later the PSNI could cope.”
Ministry of Defence report, 2007

The road to peace

“She held my hand tightly, and gripped me as hard as she could. She said, ‘Daddy, I love you very much.’ Those were her exact words to me, and those were the last words I ever heard her say… But I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge. Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She was a great wee lassie. She loved her profession. She was a pet. She’s dead. She’s in heaven and we shall meet again. I will pray for these men tonight and every night.”
Gordon Wilson on the death of his daughter Marie, killed in 1987

“I’ve been in prison for 15 years for something I didn’t do. I’m totally innocent. I watched my father die in a British prison. He was innocent. The Maguires are innocent.”
Gerry Conlon after his 1989 retrial

“More lives may have been lost in the 1970s but nearly all of those who lived through those times never felt as helpless and as frightened as they do today. Frightened because of the increasing savagery of the sectarian attacks; and helpless because there seems no prospect of settlement. The most terrifying development of the last year or so has been the sharp rise in atrocities carried out by Loyalist paramilitaries. Loyalists are now able to manufacture bombs and are able to carry out assassinations with apparent impunity. They have now killed six people in two days.”
The pro-Nationalist Irish News, 1993

“Recognising the potential of the current situation and in order to enhance the peace process and underline our commitment to its success, the leadership of the IRA have decided that as August 31st, there will be a complete cessation of military operations. All of our units have been instructed accordingly.”
Provisional IRA statement, 1994

“I keep thinking of the people that were murdered without trial. I’m not talking about the police, I’m not talking about the army. I’m talking about people that were shot dead on their doorsteps, through windows, in the presence of their children, their parents and their wives. These people in their graves are crying out for retribution and it’s not going to come anymore… And you are morally responsible for that! Morally, you are a murderer! And not only are you a murderer, but now you add the extra dimension by saying ‘I want peace’ and you’re a hypocrite as well.”
Hugh Leonard, Irish writer, on Gerry Adams, 1994

“We are heading for the 21st century. Time has moved on. I appeal above all to politicians to stop playing politics with people’s lives, to look over their shoulder and to listen to what their grassroots supporters are saying… They said that they want their political leaders to talk.”
Gordon Wilson, British Labor minister, 1995

“Compromise is not giving in, it is maturity. I appeal to the political leaders to sit down, all of them, to listen to their electors, to present their polices, to reach out to love their neighbours and common God.”
Gordon Wilson, peace activist, 1995

“Catholics don’t want a share in the government of Northern Ireland. They want Northern Ireland to be destroyed and to have a united Ireland. Even if they were to join a government, it’s only until such a time as they can destroy the government and the state. The ordinary Ulsterman is not going
to surrender to the IRA… We have not only the right but the duty to kill them before they kill me, my family and others.”
Ian Paisley, DUP leader

“The only solution for dealing with the IRA is to kill 600 people in one night.”
British Conservative MP Alan Clark, 1997

“As everybody knows, the patience, skill and determination shown by clergy has been nothing less than indispensable in bringing about the peace we now enjoy. I can say that without them, the present hopeful situation would not and could not have come about.”
John Hume, SDLP leader, December 1995

“The commemorative murals could be said to be looking back in order to look forward. These murals argued that 25 years was enough.”
Bill Rolston on the Derry murals

“We are all guilty in this society to one degree or another, whether it be by word or deed or silence… We all need to acknowledge to some degree our guilt in order to clear the playing surface so that we can move forward. The loyalist paramilitaries… have said that their violence was reactive to IRA violence. The IRA’s violence has ceased.”
David Ervine, PUP leader, 1994

“There is a general emerging consensus and acceptance that Republicans of our generation were left with no other option. And, of course, it was those same Republicans who now create new options, created by the peace process. I think that debunks any notion that we threw ourselves into the oblivion of armed struggle willy-nilly. The most critical evolution since this struggle began was achieved by those most active and engaged with in it. We Republicans have our own code of human ethics and measure our involvement and actions against that.”
Bobby Storey, IRA leader

“Every day of the nearly two years of negotiations was for him a struggle… attacked daily by some Unionists for selling out the Union, criticised often by some nationalists for recalcitrance, he threaded his way through a minefield of problems.”
US Senator George Mitchell on David Trimble

“Prisoner release has played a part in conflict resolution throughout the world. Those who have been part of the problem must be part of the solution.”
Phillip Dean, Unionist Democratic Party

“The agreement that has emerged from the Northern Ireland peace talks opens the way for the people there to build a society based on enduring peace, justice and equality. The vision and commitment of the participants in the talks has made real the prayers for peace on both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of the peace line. All friends of Ireland and Northern Ireland know the task of making the peace endure will be difficult. The path of peace is never easy. But the parties have made brave decisions. They have chosen hope over hate; The promise of the future over the poison of the past. And in so doing, already they have written a new chapter in the rich history of their island, a chapter of resolute courage that inspires us all. In the days to come there may be those who will try to undermine this great achievement, not only with words but perhaps also with violence. All the parties and all the rest of us must stand shoulder to shoulder to defy any such appeal.”
Bill Clinton, 1998

“The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 represents an attempt to overcome the politics of ‘control and exclusion’ by substituting in its place the politics of ‘co-operation and inclusion’.”
Reverend John Dunlop, Belfast Presbyterian minister

“It’s about those who are against the agreement and those who reject it. The rejectionists are finding another way of publicly stating their total opposition to the Good Friday Agreement. They don’t want a cabinet with Sinn Fein in it or the SDLP in it. They don’t want Chris Patten to establish a new policing service; they don’t want the release of prisoners. All they want to continue is the old vain struggles of the last 70 years, which effectively brought us to 1968 and 1969 and everything that’s
happened since.”
Martin McGuinness, February 1999

“Up until March 26th this year, Ian Paisley and I never had a conversation about anything, not even about the weather. And now we have worked very closely together over the last seven months and there’s been no angry words between us… This shows we are set for a new course.”
Martin McGuinness, 2007

“We’re coming up to St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick preached the gospel of Jesus Christ in Ireland. And I was just thinking today, the only thing these murderers have done: they have desecrated the shamrock by trying to pour the blood of their innocent victims upon it.”
Ian Paisley, after the shooting of two British soldiers, 2009

“I know that some people wonder whether, nearly 40 years on from an event, if a prime minister needs to issue an apology. For someone of my generation, Bloody Sunday and the early 1970s are something we feel we have learnt about rather than lived through. But what happened should never, ever have happened. The families of those who died should not have had to live with the pain and the hurt of that day and with a lifetime of loss.”
David Cameron, British prime minister, 2010

“The day has come when Northern Ireland must boldly face the simple facts. There are people in Northern Ireland who have diverse religious and political convictions, but they can live together as neighbours. When I was a boy, there was more neighbourliness than we have seen for many years. Something entered the hearts of the people that destroyed the reverence for neighbourliness and kindliness. The Ulster people are not a hard people: they are a loving and caring people… Of course there will be times when both sides of the political spectrum might feel that they are being pushed, but they need to keep their hands in their pockets and remember that it is our hearts that should drive us to win the best outcome for our people.”
Ian Paisley, 2010

“The relationship [between Britain and Ireland] has not always been straightforward, nor has the record over the centuries been entirely benign. It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss. These events have touched us all, many of us personally, and are a painful legacy. We can never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families. To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past, I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy. With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently, or not at all.”
Queen Elizabeth II, speaking in Dublin, 2011