Most recently in British politics, the Conservative Party have reached an agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (henceforth the DUP) of Northern Ireland to continue with a Tory-led minority government. Asides from the £1 billion that the DUP will receive in line with this deal, the DUP have agreed to support the Conservative government on a variety of motions around austerity and various cuts to public services. Whilst at this stage I could focus on what this might mean for England and Wales, I aim to alternatively focus on the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ and what this might mean for Northern Ireland.
The Good Friday Agreement was signed on the 10th April 1998 after 30 years (1968-1998) of conflict in Northern Ireland which became known as ‘The Troubles’. The conflict centred around disputes over the constitutional status of Northern Ireland between the Unionist (largely Protestant) majority and the minority Nationalist / Republican movement (predominantly Catholic). The former fought to remain a part of the United Kingdom whilst the latter movement fought to become a part of the Republic of Ireland. Prior to the 1998 agreement, each faction suffered difficulties in negotiation throughout ‘The Troubles’; the Ulster Unionist Party (henceforth the UUP) refused to negotiate with Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, due to issues associated with the decommissioning of the IRA. As the violence ensued, Tony Bair (British PM) and Bertie Ahern (Irish PM) joined the negotiation process to aid in the ratification of an agreement at Stormont. By the afternoon of 1998’s Good Friday, the conflict which caused the loss of life for over 3,600 people was brought to an end with the ‘Good Friday Agreement’. Whilst the Ulster Unionists were unhappy with some of the details of the agreement, the DUP was the only major political party which outright opposed the agreement. The agreement consisted of two documents which aimed to outline the complex provisions of the Northern Ireland peace process; one focused on the multi-party agreement between Northern Ireland’s various political factions, whilst the other document focused on Anglo-Irish relations in the form of an agreement between the British and the Irish. However, it appears that the Tory’s deal with the DUP threatens this very peace process and the principles of the agreement.
Under the agreement, the British government are intended to act as an impartial negotiating body to the power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland; however, if the DUP are to form a part of the Conservative minority government, this party will have the ability to exert a heightened level of influence in Westminster which means that the embedded impartiality of the British remains compromised in the ‘Good Friday Agreement’. Quoting Gerry Adams, the President of Sinn Fein, the deal between the Torys and the DUP “provides a blank cheque for a Tory Brexit which threatens the Good Friday Agreement”. In a direct conversation with Theresa May at Number 10, Downing Street, he explicitly discussed this and argued that she was in direct violation of the very agreement which brought peace to Northern Ireland. In addition, the Tory’s move to scrap the Human Rights Act along with ending the jurisdiction of the European court of justice and to end the role of the European Convention on Human Rights in the UK (a problem which transcends the Northern Ireland Peace Process to no end…) threatens the core principles of the ‘Good Friday Agreement’.
This is not to say that ‘The Troubles’ will be reignited or that violence will emerge amongst the heart of Northern Ireland again, this article just serves to highlight that this latest political move has the ability to undermine the peace process which brought an end to the violence of ‘the Troubles’.
Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/jordibernabeu/29160473800/”>Jordi Bernabeu</a> via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re/19de46″>Visualhunt.com</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”> CC BY</a>