Source 1 - Newspaper cutting

A newspaper cutting contained in a UK government file. The article was published in May 1993 in The Sunday News, a newspaper in the Irish Republic.

Context notes

John Hume was the leader of the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP), the largest Nationalist party in Northern Ireland at the time. Gerry Adams was the leader of Sinn Féin, which was generally seen as the political wing of the IRA although Gerry Adams always officially denied that there was a link between the two organisations. They began a series of meetings in 1992 to discuss the conditions which would be necessary to end the conflict in Northern Ireland. In April 1994 these ‘secret’ talks were discovered and widely reported in the newspapers and as a result Hume and Adams made a public statement about their talks in April 1993. They then continued to meet and made further public statements in September and November 1993, setting out their views on how government and politics in Northern Ireland should develop.


Why John Hume is right to enter into talks with Gerry Adams

There has been considerable debate – some of it almost of hysterical proportions – concerning the decision of the leader of the SDLP, John Hume, to talk with the President of Sinn Fein. Gerry Adams. What seems to have enraged some politicians and commentators is their decision to issue a joint- statement after it was accidentally leaked that their discussions were taking place.

In Dublin there seems to be some puzzlement about why Mr Hume did not inform them beforehand that he was out to enter these discussions, but that probably because the talks were tended to be confidential in order to give the participants the chance to make progress out of the glare of publicity. It seems incredible that after 23 years violence in the North an attempt by one of our most respected constitutional politicians, John Hume, to achieve peace should become wrapped up in petty party point scoring and, instead of being encouraged to help break the logjam, he should be vilified.

Mr Hume does not have all the answers to the problems of Northern Ireland: he is not the only speaker for the Nationalist people of the North. But he does have answers and he does speak for sizeable section of that Nationalist community. Above all he speaks the searing truth when he says that this litany of carnage, despair, murder, destruction and human tragedy on a vast scale has got to be stopped. And he is attempting to stop it. John Hume must know there are risks involved in this strategy, but the possibility of success presents such a huge prize it is, in our view, worth taking the risks. If John Hume can get across to the Sinn Fein-IRA axis the truths that here is a better way, that 23 years of violence has not worked and that the political path is the one to tread, then he will have achieved something of historic proportions.

Hume says that if he fails then all he will have lost is his time. It is not as simple as that, however, and there are fears that his venture will damage constitutional nationalism as well as the prospects of a successful renewal of the talks in the North. Even allowing for those misgivings Hume is right to talk to Adams if he feels he has a chance of success.

The Irish and British Governments are making commendable efforts to restart the talks process but, as Douglas Hurd said in Dublin on Friday, it is a slow process. In the meantime lives are being lost daily. It is in that context that Hume has undertaken his discussions with Adams. The waiting game means a prolonged campaign of violence, with more deaths and heartache.

If there is pressure on Hume to deliver something from the talks then there is equal pressure on Adams. If his objective is solely to legitimise the Republican movement by being seen to be in dialogue with the leader of constitutional nationalism in the North then he is engaged in a hypocritical exercise. Adams, like a number of his Sinn Fein colleagues, must know the campaign of the gun and the bomb has, to put it mildly, not borne fruit. It is time for a change and they surely realise there is another way. How to bring about that other way is the nub of the discussions between him and the SDLP leader and he talks are therefore not only worthwhile but probably an essential art of the process which must be gone through if we are to achieve peace.

« Return to Downing Street Declaration (KS4)



  1. What have Hume and Adams been doing?
  2. What is the view of the author of the article about these actions?
  3. Is there any evidence that there have been reactions from other groups?

Inferences from the content

  1. What can historians infer about public opinion and politicians in Ireland at this time?
  2. What can historians infer about the impact of the Hume Adams talks?

Inferences from the context

  1. Is it significant that a copy of this article was made and was kept in a UK government file?