Northern Ireland news

Michael Gove defends remarks he made in 2000 about Good Friday Agreement negotiations

Conservative party leadership contender Michael Gove on the BBC One current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show. Picture by Jeff Overs, BBC/Press Association 

CONSERVATIVE leadership hopeful Michael Gove last night said he believed the Good Friday Agreement negotiation "could have been handled in a different way".

The candiate for British Prime Minister also defended controversial remarks he made about the Northern Ireland peace process in a paper he wrote in 2000.

In the paper, entitled 'Northern Ireland the Price of Peace', Mr Gove wrote that he believed the IRA could have been defeated and the Good Friday Agreement was a capitulation to them by Tony Blair.

Mr Gove also wrote at the time that he believed the SAS and other undercover killers should have been allowed to continue in Ireland and could have defeated the IRA.

"After Loughgall and Drumnakilly, the government had become cautious, worried about shoot-to-kill accusations," he said.

"But there were other, more expedient reasons for the changing political climate. The British Government had started making behind-the-scenes moves in an effort to reach an accommodation with the Provisional IRA.

"In other words, the British State deliberately held its security forces back from inflicting military reverses on the IRA because it preferred to negotiate."

The British justice secretary previously also expressed repeated concerns about the "erosion" of Northern Ireland's British culture.

He also claimed the Good Friday Agreement had turned "the police force into a political plaything whose legitimacy depends on familiarity with fashionable social theories".

He also complained that the deal "uproots justice from its traditions and makes it politically contentious" and that it "demeans traditional expressions of British national identity".

Michael Gove, pictured with Boris Johnson, last week announced he was running for the Conservative Party leadership role. Picture by Stefan Rousseau, Press Association

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Mr Gove said while he was "certainly glad we now have peace in Northern Ireland...the process of negotiation that could have been handled in a different way".

"There was a problem with the Northern Ireland peace process, one of things I would say now, we now have peace in Northern Ireland, I'm delighted that we do, but the things we did during the negotiations in the way that we handled the IRA, I would not have done," he said.

"There are people who naturally felt as I did, discomfort, there is a moral question about someone who had been engaged in terrorism should be in office and I found that very difficult to take.

"I have clear principles and one of my principles is I believe in the integrity of our United Kingdom, I don't like the idea that we should be allowing our country to be influenced by a terrorist campaign and I believe that in standing up for the unity of our kingdom and standing up against violence and intimidation, I'm standing up for the values of the majority of people share."

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