Posts Tagged ‘Good Friday Agreement’

British politics needs to start planning for the day Northern Ireland ceases to exist

11/04/2017, 09:44:48 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Nineteen years ago this week, Tony Blair, Mo Mowlam, Bertie Ahern the Irish Taoiseach and the various political parties were in the final stages of agreeing what became the Belfast Agreement, better known, given the day it was finalised, as the Good Friday Agreement.

It was a triumph for all involved and, whatever else his critics point to, Blair’s crowning achievement; a superb piece of leadership and political tradecraft.

It was a deal that ensured cross-community power-sharing and a devolved assembly.

The end of the British Army’s presence in Northern Ireland and the release of paramilitary prisoners.

Strengthened east-west links between the Irish and British governments and north-south bodies to create all-Ireland institutions.

It is a deal that has provided two decades of relative peace and normality and become a lodestar in the field of conflict resolution.

But the Good Friday Agreement settlement is now faltering.

The collapse of the power-sharing executive in January, (following Arlene Foster’s woeful handling of a £500m heating subsidy), Sinn Fein’s strengthened mandate in the subsequent assembly elections and the current difficulty with restoring the executive are testing its resilience as a model.

The broader truth is that the Good Friday Agreement was never meant to last. It was always a stop-gap solution. An interregnum. A transition space between the conflict of the Troubles and the advent, eventually, of a unified Irish state.

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Brokenshire has been a spectator, not a participant during Northern Ireland collapse

25/01/2017, 11:23:00 AM

by Kevin Meagher

James Brokenshire has an unfortunate surname for a man who presides over the collapse of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in office for barely seven months, has not exactly covered himself in glory thus far.

Last week, he was obliged to announce fresh elections to the 90-member Northern Ireland Assembly following the collapse of the cross-community executive, triggered by Martin McGuinness’s resignation as deputy First Minister.

The row centres on Democratic Unionist First Minister Arlene Foster’s quite ridiculous refusal to step aside and make way for an investigation into the £500m Renewable Heat Incentive fiasco she was responsible for in her previous post as enterprise minister.

The ‘burn to earn’ scheme saw massive payments to encourage companies to switch to wood pellet boilers, entitling them to make vast sums for heating empty properties.

Last week, police in South Armagh raided an empty heated barn assuming it was a drug factory.

Brokenshire finds himself tasked with picking up the pieces.

Yet this crisis is the result of a classic, almost textbook slow-motion political collision.

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The idea that Jeremy Corbyn laid the foundations for peace in Northern Ireland is total fantasy

07/08/2015, 05:32:36 PM

by Anthony Breach

The other day I was informed that, along with every other person from Northern Ireland, I was wrong about the Good Friday Agreement and the Northern Irish peace process. Rather than being the product of improbable, bewildering, and exhausting negotiations between at least five different parties, it was actually Jeremy Corbyn who “set up peace in Northern Ireland”. This was though I’d never heard any other Northern Irish person before last month utter Corbyn’s name in gratitude, anger, or even at all.

I was directed to an interview with Corbyn (relevant clip) where, along with mentioning his commendable work on the Birmingham Six and some dubious comments on Irish history generally, Corbyn says:

“During the 1980s… we built up regular contacts with Sinn Fein, we were condemned by our own Party Leadership for so doing… and we were proven to be right. In the end, even Margaret Thatcher recognised that there had to be some kind of political settlement in Ireland, that militarily it wasn’t going to be possible, and eventually this became the Good Friday Agreement after the 1997 election.”

How this became “Corbyn set up peace in Northern Ireland” in his supporter’s understanding remains unclear. He is however not the only one to believe this – surprisingly many people are under the impression that Corbyn’s involvement in Northern Irish politics has been not only significant but beneficial.

Corbyn himself makes a politically magical leap from Thatcher’s change in policy and the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, but he does at least avoid claiming outright that his talks were the basis for the Agreement, unlike Owen Jones and other Corbyn supporters.

This was however all before a frankly bizarre interview Corbyn conducted with BBC Radio Ulster where, as the leading candidate for the Labour leadership and our potential offer of Prime Minister to the British people, Corbyn five times refused to explicitly condemn the IRA and equated the British army with a non-state terrorist organisation that murdered British civilians as a matter of policy.

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