Tuesday 20 March 2018

Albert Reynolds and I used our heated exchanges to plot a new path to peace

John Major with the late Albert Reynolds
John Major with the late Albert Reynolds

John Major

I first met Albert Reynolds 25 years ago when we were both finance ministers, but only came to know him well after his appointment as Taoiseach.

As prime minister, I had been surprised to learn there were no regular meetings between UK ministers and those of our nearest neighbour in Ireland, and agreed with the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, to institute them. When Mr Haughey was replaced by Albert Reynolds, the meetings began and Anglo-Irish relations became much closer.

My first meeting with Albert ended with a private discussion in the White Drawing Room of No 10. Without officials, formalities were dropped. I learnt that he was as horrified as I was over the mayhem in Northern Ireland and on the mainland, and wished to end it. As Taoiseach, he favoured above all a united Ireland, but mostly he wanted to see an end to the bloodshed. "What can we do about it?" he asked. "I mean, you and I, John. It's our responsibility now."

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