Thursday 27 June 2019

Former British Prime Minister to deliver keynote speech on Albert Reynolds' contribution to peace process

John Major and Albert Reynolds
John Major and Albert Reynolds
Sir John Major. Photo: PA

Liam Cosgrove

Former British Prime Minister Sir John Major will travel to Co Longford on Monday to deliver a keynote speech on former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds' contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process.

Mr Major's visit coincides in the same week 25 years ago that he, together with his former Irish counterpart, signed the Downing Street Declaration.

The accord, signed on December 15 1993 has long been heralded as one of the key catalysts in bringing about multi-party talks which would later lay the foundations for the brokering of the Good Friday Agreement.

The former Conservative party leader, who enjoyed a close personal relationship with the late Mr Reynolds, will take centre stage at what has been dubbed the 'Inaugural Albert Reynolds Memorial Lecture' at Longford's Backstage Theatre tomorrow afternoon.

In the lead-up to those events, Mr Major is also scheduled to meet members of the Reynolds family before a reception is held in the aftermath of Mr Major's speech at the Longford Arms Hotel.

Fianna Fáíl Cllr Mick Cahill, who initiated calls for a special event to mark Mr Reynolds' contribution to the Peace Process during his time as Longford County Council Cathaoirleach in 2017, said the occasion had been a long time coming.

"When I was in the chair,I just felt it was very important that we, as a county, recognised the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Downing Street Declaration and the major role Albert Reynolds had not just in that, but in the wider Peace Process," he said.

“The fact (Sir) John Major is coming to talk on that very subject presents a fantastic opportunity for people to experience it live and it is no more relevant than it is at this moment in time.

“When you think that he (Mr Major) accepted the invitation shows just how highly he thought of Albert and the significant role he played in the (Peace) Process.”

Fianna Fáil party leader Micheal Martin is also expected to address those in attendance prior to Mr Major's speech while more than ten of Mr Reynolds' former cabinet members who served with him at the time of the Downing Street Declaration in 1993, will also be present.

In anticipation of the former British premier's arrival, a number of road closures have been announced.

They include L 1127 from its junction with the R397 at Ballymacormack to its junction with the L 3013 at Lisduff Cross which will be inaccessible from 2pm until 6pm.

Local diversions will apply and proof of residency is likely to be required to access the road.

RTÉ, meanwhile, have confirmed live coverage of the event will be carried on its News Now digital channel and the RTÉ Player on www.rte.ie from 4:30pm.

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