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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Despite humiliating Theresa May, the DUP got nothing

Posted by Jim on December 9, 2017

“… the DUP never accepted the Good Friday Agreement …  Don’t forget,  Foster left the UUP because of her opposition to the Good Friday Agreement.”

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast.  December 10,  2017

The first point to make is that despite the huge odium they have incurred, the very personal humiliation they inflicted on Theresa May and the international embarrassment and ignominy they heaped on Britain, the DUP got nothing.

Leo Varadkar was being generous when he said what changes there were since Monday were ‘stylistic’. ‘Cosmetic’ would have been more accurate.

Foster’s ‘six substantive changes’ are, in fact,  six statements of the bleeding obvious spelt out for DUP dummies.

For example,  the paragraph beginning: ‘Both Parties [EU and UK] recognise the need to respect the provisions of the 1998 Agreement regarding the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the principle of consent.’ As if before yesterday they didn’t? You might like to notice in passing that the DUP never accepted the Good Friday Agreement,  never mind respected its provisions but also that their fig leaf, the St Andrews Agreement,  is not mentioned at all. Don’t forget,  Foster left the UUP because of her opposition to the Good Friday Agreement.

The other changes to please the DUP are equally anodyne. They pledge ‘unfettered access’ for The North’s businesses to the UK internal market and the integrity of The North’s place in the UK’s market. None of that was ever in question except in the paranoid politics of the DUP Brextremists. The Irish government never wanted a sea border. Why would they, given the billions of euros of goods they send across Britain as a land bridge to the EU? Varadkar completely outfoxed the British and DUP on that.

Yet, Arlene’s MPs (who kept her well away from the negotiations in her Fermanagh fastness) told her they weren’t entirely satisfied but they ran out of time and agreed only ‘in the national interest’. The British press say Theresa May just had to face them down because the EU had given her an absolute deadline and nothing was more important than getting to Phase 2, trade talks.

So in the absence of other solutions there will remain ‘full alignment’ with the rules of the customs union and single market ‘which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the all-island economy and  the protection of the 1998 Agreement’. Exactly what DUP Brextremists like Depooty Dawds [Deputy Dodds] didn’t want and resisted on Monday. As a result, the DUP has threatened to vote against the final agreement despite their explicit support for Brexit legislation being written into their dirty deal with the Conservatives.

Aside from the cross Border aspects of yesterday’s agreement,  there are vital provisions for maintaining the rights of EU citizens in The North enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement,  including European Convention on Human Rights and importantly, healthcare in other EU states. As the Taoiseach said: ‘We have achieved everything we wanted to achieve.’

The Republic with the EU26 [the other countries in the EU] behind it easily outweighed the UK, a lesson for Brexiteers.

Sadly, despite the British government being in flagrant breach of their GFA obligation to be ‘rigorously impartial on behalf of all the people’ here, after having just spent a week placating one party to the exclusion of all others, the Taoiseach in typical Fine Gael style went out of his way in several paragraphs to address Unionists’ concerns ‘in particular’. By contrast, in his statement running to 1,000 words he had 55 words for Nationalists in The North who Enda Kenny left swinging in the wind for six years. Long past time for Varadkar to start respecting northern Nationalists’ representatives.

Still, as someone tweeted yesterday, if the Good Friday Agreement was Sunningdale for slow learners, Friday’s agreement was Monday’s agreement for the DUP slow learners.


Commitments on border ‘politically bulletproof’ – Varadkar

Posted by Jim on December 8, 2017

RTE. Dublin.Friday, 8 Dec 2017

Leo Vardkar said joint commitment is ‘rock solid and cast iron’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Brexit deal between the European Union and the UK, which was announced in Brussels, has achieved “what we sought to achieve”.

He said the joint commitment by the EU and Britain to the retention of a free-flowing border between Ireland and the UK post-Brexit is “rock solid and cast iron”.

Mr Varadkar described assurances outlined in the agreed text as “politically bulletproof”.

“We have protected what we sought to protect and we achieved what we sought to achieve,” he said.

The European Commission has said enough progress had been made in Brexit negotiations with Britain and that a second phase of negotiations should begin.

The commission announced its verdict in an early morning statement after intense talks, which resulted in British Prime Minister Theresa May taking an early-morning flight to Brussels to announce the deal alongside Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Mr Juncker said: “I will always be sad about this development, but now we must start looking to the future, a future in which the UK will remain a close friend and ally.”

Mrs May said the deal agreed today is a significant improvement from Monday and the joint report is in the best interests of the whole of the UK.

She said that “we guarantee there will be no hard border in Ireland” and “we will uphold the Belfast Agreement”.

Mrs May said that she spoke with Mr Varadkar yesterday and they agreed there will be no barriers to trade north-south or east-west.

She also said that the agreement would guarantee the rights of three million EU citizens in the UK “enshrined in UK law and enforced by British courts”, and that it included a financial settlement which was “fair to the British taxpayer”

The text of Britain’s Brexit agreement says on the border that the UK “will maintain full alignment” with the EU single market, customs rules that support peace, cooperation, economy of island of Ireland.

Reacting to the breakthrough at Government Buildings in Dublin, Mr Varadkar downplayed changes in the wording of the text from Monday’s ill-fated draft, which was scuppered by the DUP.

He said the amendments were “stylistic changes in language” or “just statements of fact” that his Government had “no difficulty with”.

The Taoiseach acknowledged relations between the UK and Ireland had become strained during the phase 1 negotiations but he predicted that now his Government has achieved the desired guarantees on the border it would become one of London’s “closest friends” in the next stage of the Brexit talks.

The commission’s recommendation that sufficient progress has been made will now go to the European Union summit of leaders taking place next week.

Mrs May said she expected a formal agreement to be approved at the summit.

“Prime Minister May has assured me that it has the backing of the UK government. On that basis, I believe we have now made the breakthrough we need. Today’s result is of course a compromise,” Mr Juncker told a hastily arranged news conference.

The commission said it was ready to begin work immediately on Phase 2 talks, which cover trade and long-term relations with the bloc.

European Council President Donald Tusk said the EU is ready to start negotiating a transition period with the UK and wanted more clarity on how it sees their new relationship after leaving.

He said Britain will have to respect all EU laws during the transition, as well as as respect its budgetary commitments and the bloc’s judicial oversight.

But it would no longer take part in decision-making that will be done by the 27 remaining states.

Mr Tusk said, however, too much time was spent on negotiating the outlines of Britain’s exit, which he said was the relatively easier part.

“We all know that breaking up is hard but breaking up and building a new relation is much harder,” he said.

“So much time has been devoted to the easier task and now … we have de facto less than a year,” left of talks before Britain is due to leave in March, 2019.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the deal “fully protected” the Good Friday Agreement, the peace process and an all-Ireland economy.

“What it means is any deal that is done has to be better than the default position, otherwise we won’t be able to agree it”

Under the terms of the negotiations being carried out under Article 50 of the EU treaties, the European Council must agree that sufficient progress has been made on the divorce issues of citizens’ rights, the Irish border and the UK’s financial settlement before talks can move on to the issues of trade and transition.

The publication of the joint report makes it all but certain that EU27 leaders will approve this step on Thursday, marking a significant step forward in the process leading towards UK withdrawal in March 2019.

It eases pressure on Mrs May, who was facing the prospect of businesses activating contingency plans to move staff and activities out of the UK if no progress had been made by the end of the year.

Mr Juncker cautioned: “The joint report is not the withdrawal agreement. That agreement needs to be drafted by the negotiators on the basis we have agreed yesterday and today and then approved by the Council and ratified by the UK Parliament and European Parliament.”

He said that he and Mrs May had discussed the need for a transition period following the formal date of Brexit, and shared “a joint vision of a deep and close partnership”.

“It is crucial for us all that we continue working closely together on issues such as trade, research, security and others”

“We will take things one step at a time, starting with next week’s European Council, but today I am hopeful that we are all moving towards the second phase of these challenging negotiations and we can do this jointly on the basis of renewed trust, determination and with the perspective of a renewed friendship.”

Mrs May said that the negotiation process “hasn’t been easy for either side”.

“When we met on Monday, we said a deal was within reach,” said the PM. “What we have arrived at today represents a significant improvement.”

Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster said “substantial progress” had been made from the text her party rejected on Monday.

Ms Foster, who negotiated directly with Mrs May into the early hours of Friday, said Northern Ireland would now leave the single market and customs union and insisted there would be no border down the Irish sea, dividing Northern Ireland with the rest of the UK.

“There will be no so-called ‘special status’ for Northern Ireland as demanded by Sinn Féin”

“Northern Ireland will not be separated constitutionally, politically, economically or regulatory from the rest of the United Kingdom and the joint UK-EU report at the conclusion of phase one makes clear that in all circumstances the United Kingdom will continue to ensure the same unfettered access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the UK internal market.”

But the DUP leader made clear there was “still more work to be done”.

What the DUP really fears is British betrayal

Posted by Jim on

The DUP and the Conservatives signed a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement in June. DUP leader Arlene Foster reportedly torpedoed the proposed Brexit border deal during a phone call with British Prime Minister Theresa May. 

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, December 6, 2017

It was a perfect snooker on Monday. The DUP had May on the cushion. There was one ball she had to hit but her path was blocked by a collection of the wrong balls as you could see.

Just as in a real game of snooker she has decided to take her time trying to work out how to escape from the snooker. The rest of this week she’ll be walking round the table working out angles.

While she’s doing that there are some parochial conclusions that can be drawn. First, it’s the end of devolved administration here until a British general election changes the complexion of government. She may have thought on Monday she was reading out a stone-walling statement but Arlene Foster was in reality reading out her own P45. Spurred on by her hard line,  MPs who were panicked by the leaks about the EU-UK agreement on The Border in Ireland she proved beyond peradventure that Sinn Féin are correct about the Stormont stand off.

By coincidence Sinn Féin’s Declan Kearney had just been on the radio trying to finish an uninterrupted sentence to explain why the Good Friday Agreement was in danger from the Conservative-DUP alignment – there’s that word again. Theresa May’s alacrity in responding to the DUP statement showed why there can be no deal at Stormont. Just as Sinn Féin have been claiming all along it’s obvious now that the British government and its useless proconsul block anything that might discomfit the DUP. So there can be,  and will be,  no progress as long as the Conservative-DUP link remains.

People are going to have to stop saying the DUP and Sinn Féin are as bad as each other. The evidence quite clearly points to DUP stone-walling supported by the Conservative government as the reason for the failure to resume business at Stormont.

Secondly, Theresa May is now doing what Sinn Féin sources confirm the British government always does in negotiations. They reach a draft agreement,  and then begin to negotiate backwards from it,  having discovered their opponent’s bottom line. For example, that’s what they’re doing with the Stormont House deal on the past. On Monday May incredibly took off the table an agreement she’d made that morning with the EU. She unagreed it. Having talked Dublin down from ‘no regulatory divergence’ to ‘continued regulatory alignment’ she will now try to water that down too.

The British will still have to accept most of the concessions they’ve already made because they’re desperate to get to Phase 2 and talk about trade. However they will now plead mitigation because, since all the ambiguities and subtleties have been exposed and dissected, it’s going to be much more difficult to convince the Brextremists of the merits of the deal, but deal there must be.

What we also know from experience is this. May and her advisers will easily convince their DUP dupes by spelling out in words of one syllable how different the agreement was from the leak that spooked the DUP. They will cobble together a deal, then at the appropriate time rat on the DUP. The DUP know that. They may heap all the abuse on the Irish government but their real fear is the British betraying them. After all, they’ve always done it in the past and getting a deal with the EU is vastly more important to the British than placating Depooty Dawds[Deputy Nigel Dodds].

What the DUP are attempting is to embarrass the British government into sticking to the principles May enunciated “in the House of Commons,” as poor redundant Arlene kept repeating. Fat chance.

The worrying aspect of all this is that the Irish government may not appreciate that having convinced the DUP and the Brextremists and concluded a deal to get into trade talks, the British will then rat on the Irish when it comes to the detail of a trade deal.

What the Irish government has to do is to get the principles agreed in any EU-UK deal on The Border written into the final withdrawal treaty the UK makes with the EU. If they aren’t written into that,  then they don’t exist except as a gleam in Leo Varadkar’s eye.

Theresa May’s Irish Headache, and the Final Death Knell of British Imperialism

Posted by Jim on

“After centuries of oppression, will Ireland benefit from Britain’s implosion?…

Henry Porter. Vanity Fair.Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The United Kingdom, whose long slide into irrelevance was hastened by the arrogance of Brexit, is now moving rapidly toward dissolution over the terms of its self-imposed estrangement. On Monday, Theresa May made a terse statement announcing that negotiations with the European Union had been suspended because of disagreements over the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, uniting two issues—Europe and Ireland—that have obsessed the British political establishment for more than half a century. The Irish question, perhaps better than any other issue, underscores the chaotic nature of the U.K. government’s approach to Brexit, and the enfeebled state of the country since voting to cut ties with Europe.

What has happened this week looks like karma on a grand scale. But the predicament over the border is also a sign of the rapid retreat from reason that characterizes the plan to leave the E.U. May’s government has long promised a “hard Brexit” from Europe, leaving both the Customs Union and the Single Market, while maintaining a soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland—a devoted member of the European Union. Not even the head-banging Brexit extremists on May’s backbenches want a return to the border patrols and watchtowers of the Troubles.

But May’s policy is dizzy with cognitive dissonance. It makes no sense whatsoever to withdraw from the E.U. and keep an open border through which goods can pass without standard customs procedures. The formula—drafted late last weekend and, crucially, not shared with the Democratic Unionists on whom May relies for support in the House of Commons—meant that Northern Ireland would have a special customs status and therefore remain more attached to the E.U. than the rest of the U.K.

The U.K. may be suffering a kind of institutional mental breakdown, but the processing speeds of politicians are as yet undimmed. Leaders in Scotland, Wales, and London quickly began to ask why they couldn’t be granted the same exception. Members of the Northern Irish D.U.P., meanwhile, were appalled to realize that the move would also make Northern Ireland more Irish. A border with Britain, drawn across the Irish Sea, would represent a significant step toward eventual unification of the north and south of the island. So the ardently unionist D.U.P. pulled its support and called a halt to the draft agreement needed for the Brexit negotiations to progress. Brussels’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told member states on Wednesday that if May’s government cannot reach an agreement in 48 hours, talks could be delayed until March, accelerating  the exodus of businesses from the U.K.

There is a desperate, suicidal urgency about the U.K. government’s behavior, and it is reasonable to wonder if some spooky determinism is at work—payback for centuries of domination in Ireland and a more recent record of exceptionalism in Europe. A hundred years ago Britain’s influence extended across five continents and, despite the huge cost of World War I, most of the trappings of empire were intact. At that time, the idea that Britain’s plans could be frustrated by Ireland would have been laughable. Today, it is a hard reality because the Irish—like all E.U. member states—have a veto in the negotiations. As the Irish writer Fintan O’Toole asked this week, “If, for the first time in 800 years, Ireland is proving to be in a much stronger political position than Britain, what does that say about what Brexit is doing to Britain’s strength?”

The answer is a humiliating one for the British, or, more precisely, the English, who dominated the history of the British Isles and empire before supporting Brexit by a majority. (Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the E.U.) It is the English who, if they were more self-aware, would feel the full force of the ignominy of the events of this week. But we are not living in a reasonable age and the London press—strongly biased in favor of Brexit—immediately heaped blame on the Irish government for what is essentially an English problem.

Does it have to be this way? Is the possible breakup of the United Kingdom and certain decline of its component parts simply the final stage of a cycle as old as history itself, the rise and fall of empires? You can argue that there are strong psychological reasons for what is going on in the English, who have had difficulty accommodating both the evidence of decline and the need for cooperation with neighboring states. Yet it would be wrong to generalize because very large numbers of English—particularly on the left and in the major cities—voted to remain in the E.U. What is happening appalls them as much as it does the Remainers in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Britain’s membership in the E.U. did, for a time, mitigate the forces of decline. With people on both sides of the Irish border becoming citizens of the same political union in the 1990s, the sectarian and national differences began to matter less, culminating in the Good Friday Agreement under Tony Blair that ended the Troubles. Britain could function as a moderately successful economy and allow expression of its many skills in, for example, finance, scientific research, and the creative arts within Europe. While there were, admittedly, problems with immigration, the benign dissolution of borders had millions of supporters who saw in the E.U. a place for Britain as a modest, successful, post-imperial nation.

That future now seems unlikely as May’s government stumbles toward a settlement that would sever Britain from the world it once ruled. Some sort of fudged solution will no doubt be hastily applied in Ireland so that the U.K. and exasperated Brussels officials can move on and Brexiters can achieve their ambition of leaving Europe. But the truth is that the patch probably won’t work, and it certainly won’t mask the destructive reality of English nationalism and its hard-line allies in Northern Ireland.

I keep on writing in these columns that it is very hard to know where this is all going to end. But that is true for every member of the government and Britain’s entire civil service. As we learned on Wednesday, David Davis, the man in charge of Brexit negotiations, never commissioned the studies on Brexit’s economic impact that he said had been ordered. I cannot think of an act of greater negligence or dishonesty in post-war government. His airy assertion that the usefulness of such studies would be near zero, because of the magnitude of the change, is hardly reassuring.

Next year will be one of huge national anxiety. We may see a collapse of the May government, another general election, and even a second referendum. But, right now, things are so desperate and delusional. It’s as if we are all cramped in an elevator that is in free fall, vaguely hoping that if we all jump at the same time when it hits the ground we will be saved.

Mark THOMPSON-Relatives for Justice- Manhattan event January 11th -FFAI

Posted by Jim on


      Attached is a note from Brother Martin Galvin re a FFAI event taking place on January 11th in the city. He is asking the Brooklyn brothers to be listed as a co-sponsor which I believe we should. I plan on attending and I’m hopeful to get a decent turnout from Kings County.
        Please talk it up & let me know who is interested.
Jerry McCabe
——– Original message ——–
From: Martin Galvin
Date: 12/6/17 10:56 AM (GMT-05:00)
Subject: Mark THOMPSON-Relatives for Justice- Manhattan event January 11th -FFAI
 As you know New York State AOH is bringing out Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice for a one week tour the second week in January.Mark and RfJ are often the only hope of justice for hundreds of families who had loved ones murdered by British forces directly or in collusion with loyalists. Most recently they filed papers on Liam Ryan a Tyrone born American citizen,long time Bronx resident and Con Ed worker who was murdered after returning to Tyrone and buying a pub.
He is coming to us because he says American and especially AOH for these victims is critical as the British are making moves to end all hope of justice and truth with a Statute of Limitations.
In order to get the widest possible audience we are holding one public event in New York City on Thursday evening January 11th at the Wolfe Tone Pub on East 29th street.(Malachy McAllister is a good friend of Mark’s and they requested to hold an event there.) He will also be going to Suffolk County,Rockland,Albany and Peekskill before returning to Belfast.
Two years ago New York County booked Ruan O’Donnell.  County Chair Tom Beirne invited Brother Manning and Queens and the Bronx to be co-sponsors.
That seemed to be very positive initiative  and allowed us all to be more involved and feel more part of a very successful event.I am trying to copy Brother Beirne’s great idea.
I have spoken to a couple of you,most recently at the Parade Meeting last week but want to confirm before listing New York, Queens, Bronx and Brooklyn  as co-sponsors of this event.
This would not mean any additional work or financial obligation for  any co-sponsor-just have someone at the event to be introduced representing each co-sponsor and we may try to have county banners depending on space.
I just know the Bronx members felt more involved as a result of Brother Beirne’s initiative 2 years ago   and this would allow each county to share credit for any contributions that we would make.
-please email me back to confirm if this is ok