Source 6 - Briefing notes

Briefing notes sent to senior civil servants explaining the proposed Downing Street Declaration December 1993

Context notes

This document was written by a senior adviser to the Prime Minister. The document was sent to the Private Secretaries of the members of the Cabinet. Private Secretaries are senior civil servants in government departments and work closely with ministers. The document was designed to alert these officials that the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach would be announcing the Downing Street Declaration and to provide officials and minsters with some important background information and advice on possible questions from the media.




Private Secretaries to Members of the Cabinet



The Prime Minister reported to Cabinet last week that negotiations with the Irish Government on a Joint Declaration were close to completion.

  1. The Prime Minister and Taoiseach will meet again in London [today/tomorrow] when the Joint Declaration will be made. (The text, which may be subject to some minor last minute adjustment, is attached. )
  2. The background to the making of the Joint Declaration is a little complex. The Irish Government, and the Taoiseach in particular, have come to the view, based to some extent on contacts with the Provisional Movement, that a significant component of the organisation is looking for a way of bringing the “armed struggle” to an end. This is more than a hope, but less than a firm prediction. The Joint Declaration was conceived as a way of providing cover to enable the IRA to bring its campaign to an end, and to commit itself wholly to political and democratic methods, without acknowledging abject surrender. At the same time, and in parallel, Mr John Hume has been conducting an intermittent dialogue with the Provisional Movement, and in particular with Mr Gerry Adams, with the same objective. There have been many drafts of the Joint Declaration and the parentage of different elements in it is obscure, and may subsequently be contested.
  3. Until very recently the position of the British Government, […]
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  1. What event is being announced and who is being informed about it?
  2. What is the view of the Irish government about the PIRA?
  3. What is the intention of the British and Irish Governments behind the Declaration?

Inferences from the content

  1. Would a historian find this document useful as evidence about the Republican movement at this time?
  2. What can a historian infer about the approach taken by the British and Irish governments towards the PIRA?
  3. Is this source useful as evidence about the Hume – Adams talks?

Inferences from the context

  1. Is it significant that this document is being sent to all members of the British Cabinet?