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Ministerial Response: Leader of the Oppoision (January 1992)
There now follows a response to the Prime Ministerial broadcast by the Leader of the Opposition, the Right Honourable Sir James McCrimmon, MP

One of the most harrowing experiences of my life was losing my parents two decades ago. Both happened in quick succession, but I was fortunate that they each had a period of clear decline, where I knew that it was time for us to make amends and get everything off of our chests. Grief is never easy, but I have learned that it hits the hardest when it is sudden and surprising. I have lost friends and colleagues suddenly, and I am now used to the feeling of helplessness as I try to close the door on our relationship by myself.

In Northern Ireland, there have been too many families who have become acquainted with this mode of grieving. The most recent loss of life in Boyle hurt me deeply, and I know that it is nothing compared to the grief the families and friends of those who died are feeling. If your life has been turned upside down by this sectarian violence, know that you and your loved ones have been consistently in my prayers. Know that I want this to stop as soon as possible.

Every day we let the situation in Northern Ireland remain like this is another chance for families on both sides of the political divide to lose a loved one. In the wake of this operation, it is time for the Government to pull back and reflect. It is obvious that no clear-cut solution will satisfy both sides. As such, I call on the Prime Minister to begin the arrangements for a large-scale discussion on the future of Northern Ireland that would include the leadership of both major British political parties, major Northern Irish political parties - including both unionist and republican voices, and the three main Irish political parties. 

I want to make it clear today that I am committed to the cause of peace in Northern Ireland - a lasting, sustainable peace. During our early spring recess from Parliament, I intend to do some travelling to Costa Rica, where I plan to meet with Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former President Óscar Arias to discuss peacebuilding across strongly held divisions, and what he learned from his work in leading the process to the signing of the Esquipulas Agreement. I hope to learn from him and his advisors about successfully leading in contentious times and considering how we might be able to implement similar strategies in Northern Ireland.

I have no illusions about how long this will take. I believe that this will be our moment of testing - like World War II was for Churchill and Attlee, or the Reform Act 1867 was for Benjamin Disraeli. How we respond to this crisis will shape our country’s future - if we wish to have a successful Britain, to go into the next millennium with a rejuvenated spirit and the potential for growth in all fronts, we must tackle this crisis together. Everyone involved in these conflicts is involved because they are seeking a solution to the quandary Northern Ireland has been in for the last seventy years. It is incumbent on us, as a major world power, to actively find a solution that can work for all parties. 

In this, our moment of testing, peace may seem far off. But when I sit in the Commons as we discuss the future of Northern Ireland, I am always reminded of the fact that we are entrusted by you, the British public, with the power to make decisions that will affect your lives. I remain committed to do everything in my power to ensure that everyone in the United Kingdom lives a long, safe, and happy life. As we move on from this great loss, let us all recommit ourselves to such ideals - to quality of life, to healing and reconciliation, and to peace.

Ultimately, now is not the time where the best option is to hear from politicians. Now is the time for us to listen to everyone with a stake in the future of Northern Ireland and for each one of us to consider how we might work to bring peace there. I close with an adaptation of the prayer carved outside of Westminster Abbey that has been said for centuries and, God willing, be said for many more:

May God grant to the living, grace;
To the departed, rest;
To this country, the Queen, the Commonwealth, and the world, peace and concord;
And to us sinners, eternal life.
If ministerial broadcasts are rare, responses to them from the opposition are rarer. A good response is rarer still. This was one of those rare good responses. Opening with a personal anecdote and then extending that to not just those affected in Boyle, but throughout the conflict was a good way to set the tone. The next section is what sets this response apart from the initial speech. A call for action, cross-party talks between both the UK, NI and ROI parties, and the commitment to reaching out internationally with the visit to Costa Rica, stands in contrast to the PM's statement, which never promised anything directly. The "moment of testing" bit with the historical parallels was nice, and like the PM the focus is very much on the vision for the coming millennium. The closing segment, with the reference to the people, and the interesting decision to invoke the prayer on the wall of Westminster Abbey was a lovely conclusion to a well-crafted speech.

Overall, this won't cause a dramatic shift in the polls, but it presents a leader who can often feel outshone by his deputy in a new, positive light for people who may not necessarily of noticed before. 2 XP for McCrimmon.

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