Belfast Telegraph

Major doesn't back freezing out SF

By Brian Walker, London Editor
24 February 2005

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Former Prime Minister John Major, who approved secret talks with the IRA leading to the ceasefire when he was in office, has said he doesn't favour a return to devolved government without Sinn Fein, "now that they have lost public sympathy in many quarters."

In an ITV News interview, Mr Major said leaving Republicans out of an administration "would give them a grievance that would allow them to slip off the hook."

Direct rule should continue, he said, but with the intention to returning to devolved government later.

Tony Blair was right to want to keep talking to Sinn Fein, but direct rule should be accompanied by the rigorous application of the law, including against "members of political parties if they are involved in criminal activity".

Mr Major also called on Mr Blair to end his resistance to publishing the advice he received on the legality of going to war in Iraq.

A Commons row erupted when legal scholars claimed yesterday that advice in the name of the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, had in reality been drafted by Downing St aides and that the Attorney General himself had expressed doubts about the war's legality.

Lord Goldsmith denied the claims, insisting that he had written the advice note himself.

Mr Major said the next election would be a watershed, because of indications that the turn-out would drop below the less than 60% level of last time

A main reason for this, he claimed, was new Labour spin, "which people loathe".

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