By Dominic McGrath, PA
Irish and British leaders spoke of how the European Union would contribute to the peace process in Northern Ireland as early as 1992.
At a dinner in Downing Street in February 1992 the European Community, the precursor to the EU, was praised by both sides for bringing the two Governments closer together.
The conversation at the dinner, which was attended by both Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and British prime minister John Major alongside a number of senior ministers, is recorded in a confidential note made by Irish officials.
Mr Reynolds says that some of the policies envisaged in the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which partitioned the island, “are now coming back from Europe”.
Referencing the role of a Council of Ireland, he asks: “How can we input that situation into Northern Ireland to pick up wherever you leave off?”
Peter Brooke, the then-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, responds: “The economists from outside would see it as extraordinary that trade between North and South in Ireland is so small due to the incubus of partition. This will change with the development of the EC but not by 1993.”
Tristan Garel-Jones, a British foreign office minister and supporter of greater UK integration into the European Community, said: “The EC is bringing us together. If I may quote the Prime Minister it is bringing us ‘into the heart of Europe’.”
“We are taking more trouble to talk to our partners.
“As I travel around the Community I always uncover areas where we can work together,” he tells the Irish delegation.
“The post-Maastricht European development will bring us together.”
At the same meeting, he urges Ireland and UK co-operation on various European issues.
“Even where we disagree we can talk about it,” he says.
“Between us we share a parliamentary tradition to a much greater extent than our other partners. We need to encourage our European partners to develop the same sense of accountability to their constituents as we have to ours.
“Our colleagues sometimes seem to be almost unencumbered by constituency responsibilities.”
The two sides agreed they differ on the need for increased resources for the European Community.
“Yes we feel that the Commission has its hands in our pockets more than we do ourselves,” quips Major.