Posted by Jim on December 27, 2017
Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, December 27,2017.
Absolutely everything people in the DUP say about Brexit is fantasy so it’s no surprise that remarks by blowhard DUP MPs about Irish government involvement in The North is also fantasy. In fact it’s just completely wrong.
Perhaps, because the likes of Deputy Dodds and Donaldson always opposed the Good Friday Agreement— and in Donaldson’s case walked out on David Trimble— it’s understandable that they don’t know what the GFA says about Irish government involvement in The North.
What’s puzzling is that no-one in Sinn Féin stands up and makes a detailed speech spelling out for DUP slow learners Dublin’s guaranteed role in The North. It’s in black and white in the GFA under the heading British-Irish Inter-Governmental Conference (BIIGC). “There will be a new British-Irish Agreement dealing with the totality of relationships.’’ Geddit?
Paragraph 5 is quite instructive. “In recognition of the Irish government’s special interest in Northern Ireland and of the extent to which issues of mutual concern arise in relation to Northern Ireland, there will be regular and frequent meetings of the conference concerned with non-devolved Northern Ireland matters, on which the Irish government may put forward views and proposals. These meetings, to be co-chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, would also deal with all-island and cross-border cooperation on non-devolved issues.”
There’s a lot more. The relevant section in the GFA runs to nine paragraphs. In the absence of devolved administration here, the BIIGC meets regularly as it did during the period 1999-2007.
In fact it met 18 times during those years before devolution returned in 2007, four times alone in 2006 and each time issued lengthy communiqués covering matters like, security, policing, human rights and justice.
The British-Irish Agreement which established the BIIGC actually predated the GFA by a month. It was a fail safe mechanism in case devolution failed. In that event all devolved matters revert to the remit of the BIIGC. When it’s operating it has a full-time secretariat in Belfast. It used to have a staff of 21 – 10 British and 11 Irish officials. In effect it replaced the old Maryfield structures established under the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement which guaranteed the Irish government an input into The North. The new British-Irish Agreement of 1998 replaced the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Perhaps you can see now why the DUP deny the BIIGC’s existence though they are fully aware of its role? If it’s not obvious, here’s why.
For the hardliners among the DUP MPs, any role for the Irish government in The North has always been anathema. For them Brexit, despite their claims they don’t want a hard border, is a way of bringing them closer to Britain which is their whole reason for existence as Unionists even though partition has brought economic disaster to The North in the past 96 years. Just look at the average income in The North, €23,700 compared to The South, €39,873.
The Republic’s industrial output is 10 times bigger than The North’s but its workforce is only 2.5 times bigger.
The DUP’s hardcore would rather eat grass than connect economically to The South. They don’t care that all their claims about Brexit are fantasy or that over the past 18 months one by one has dissolved into thin air.
What they most certainly don’t want is to lose their favored position of influence over the British government to be replaced by meetings of the BIIGC with Irish ministers putting forward views and proposals. The British-Irish Agreement requires ‘all [BIIGC] decisions be by agreement between both governments.The governments will make determined efforts to resolve disagreements between them.’
Just as they’re prepared to shaft The North’s agriculture, including their own misled and deluded voters, for the Holy Grail of closer connection to Britain, so ideologues like Deputy Doddss demand direct rule right now with no Irish government input. That, as demonstrated here is like his prognostications about Brexit, impossible.
You can see the DUP MPs, for it is they who are running the party, are rattled. They got nothing on the north-south border despite the loudmouth claims of Ian Óg [ young Paisley]. They learnt May can be defeated despite their support. In 2018 they plummet to earth.