Quotations: The peace process

These pages contain quotations from or about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. These quotations have been researched, selected and compiled by Alpha History authors. They contain statements and remarks about Northern Ireland and the Troubles by notable political figures, military and paramilitary commanders, contemporaries and historians. New quotations are constantly being added to these pages and suggestions are most welcome. If you would like to suggest a quotation, please contact Alpha History.

“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 policies, 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

“While [Gerry] Adams could be narky, [Martin] McGuinness was more personable. He would ask about my family and talk about sport or fishing. He was more emotional in talks. Gerry would usually be fairly bland about things, so you could never be sure if he was happy or annoyed. If Martin was angry, you knew it.”
Bertie Ahern on negotiating with Adams and McGuinness

“Sometimes you’ve got to be smart to get around these problems. They require creativity, they require imagination and they require an ability to get where you need to get to. That’s cunning in the best sense. It was really hard. You were having conversations with people – particularly when you sat down with the Sinn Fein people and the Unionists – these were people with a bitter and entrenched hatred. So there was quite a bit of cunning.”
Tony Blair speaking in 2010 about the Good Friday negotiations

“They were an extraordinary couple. Over time I came to like both greatly, probably more than I should have if truth be told… I know that they both could be clever and manipulative, but so can I… Ultimately they understood that the IRA’s existence had become not the way to a just settlement, but the barrier to it. It took real political courage to implement that insight.”
Tony Blair on Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness

“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