“…there were more people in his party who were, because of their link to the unionists, and because they felt that you’d never get anywhere with these people [republicans], who were very willing to criticise it if it went wrong.”
Lord Butler said that Sir John faced two sorts of cabinet sceptics. “[Viscount] Cranborne [then leader of the Lords] watched it very closely from an orange perspective. But then there were people like Ken Clarke [home secretary when the secret talks intensified] and Michael Howard [home secretary from May 1993] who just feared that the other side didn’t really mean to make peace and were just going to expose the British government as being naive.
“This was the risk John Major took. He said, ‘You may be right, but we’d never forgive ourselves if this was an opportunity to end these Troubles and we neglected to take it for fear of looking foolish.'”
Added to that was a very sticky endgame when he could rely less and less on his backbenchers (and some of his cabinet), not to mention a highly sceptical Jim Molyneaux seeking to leverage what little power he had in the Commons.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty