By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Former British Prime Minister John Major has accused Nobel prize winner John Hume of holding back the Northern Ireland peace process by siding with Sinn Fein at critical times.
In a chapter in his autobiography on Northern Ireland entitled "Into the Mists: Bright Hopes, Black Deeds," Major says the SDLP leader was "loathe to reciprocate to unionist concessions."
In an interpretation of the peace process when he was prime minister in the early 1990s that is certain to anger nationalists, Major is critical of drafts of the Hume-Adam document — the proposed declaration to secure an IRA cease-fire.
They were "so heavily skewed toward the presumption of a united Ireland that they had no merit as a basis for negotiation," he wrote. "They were little more than an invitation to sell out the majority in the North."
Major also claims that the Irish government was the ,first to raise the question of the decommissioning of IRA arms and explosives as a confidence-building measure.
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He said former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, in a message to Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in 1993, defined arms and equipment as "one of the issues to be dealt with expeditiously once public confidence in peace was established."
He also quotes a speech from former Tanaiste Dick Spring in 1993 seeking a handing up of arms and a year later seeking "verification" of an arms handover.
In contrast, the former Conservative leader praises Lord (formerly Sir James) Molyneaux, who had been leader of the Ulster Unionist Party when he was prime minister.
Molyneaux, he says, was a "wise old bird, small, sometimes almost monosyllabic, but a shrewd observer of the scene" who weighed his words
carefully and was "highly regarded far beyond his own party."
Major claims there was no deal for support of the nine unionist MPs for the crucial vote on the EU Maastricht Treaty when the Conservatives faced the threat of a House of Commons defeat and a general election.
"I don’t think we should enter into a sordid deal, do you? We’re both doing what we think is best," Molyneaux is quoted as saying in the memoirs, which are being serialized by the Sunday Times.