First published: July 1997
The largest swing to any political party in the general election was to Sinn Féin – a 60 per cent increase in their vote over 1992, nationalist voters made clear that they held John Major, not Sinn Féin, responsible for the collapse of the peace process. As well as gaining two seats – Mid-Ulster and Belfast West – the party’s 16.1 per cent of the vote made them the third largest in Northern Ireland, overtaking Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party. In the local elections which followed, the Unionists lost control of Belfast City Council and Sinn Féin’s vote advanced further.
But, in his first major policy statement on the north, Tony Blair made clear that as far as he is concerned Labour’s conference policy for ‘Irish unity by consent’ is now a dead letter. Blair did not make clear under what conditions Sinn Féin would be admitted to all-party talks.
For the information of our readers we reproduce here the bulk of Gerry Adams’ reply to Tony Blair.