Britain’s Duplicitous Interpretation Of The Good Friday Agreement Of 1998

As many observers expected, this morning’s judgement by the supreme court in the United Kingdom has thrown not just the Brexit plans of Theresa May’s Conservative government into confusion but also raised serious questions about the UK’s understanding of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. A yawning void of competing interpretations has opened up between Ireland and Britain, with opposite views on the multilateral and multi-document peace settlement which brought three decades of conflict in the north-east of this island nation to an end.

The supreme court in London has ruled that the authority of the British parliament is required to trigger the calling of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the process which formalises the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. The head of the court, David Neuberger, has stated that leaving the EU would fundamentally change Britain’s so-called constitution (a debatable concept, for obvious reasons). What has taken some people by surprise is the judicial body’s complete dismissal of any concerns relating to the impact of the United Kingdom’s separation from Europe on the UK-administered Six Counties.

“…[the] Northern Ireland Act, which gave the people of Northern Ireland the right to determine whether to remain part of the UK or to become part of a united Ireland, does not regulate any other change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.”

And again,

“135. In our view, this important provision, which arose out of the Belfast
Agreement, gave the people of Northern Ireland the right to determine whether to
remain part of the United Kingdom or to become part of a united Ireland. It neither regulated any other change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland nor required the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland to the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. “

In other words, the concerns of the people of Greater England take precedent, legally and constitutionally, over the concerns of those living in the last scrap of the British overseas’ colony, be they nationalist or unionist. Furthermore, as the judgement makes clear elsewhere, the supremacy of the United Kingdom government and parliament has been in no way changed or altered by the UK’s participation in any strand of the Good Friday Agreement.

“150. The Lord Advocate and the Counsel General for Wales were correct to
acknowledge that the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly did not have a
legal veto on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. Nor in
our view has the Northern Ireland Assembly. Therefore, our answer to the second
question in para 126 above is that the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly is not a legal requirement before the relevant Act of the UK Parliament is passed.”

Given that Ireland made several significant amendments to Bunreacht na hÉireann in return for supposedly equal changes by the United Kingdom in the peace deals of the late 1990s and early 2000s one can’t help but wonder…

What the fuck was the Good Friday Agreement all about, then?

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17 comments

  1. Creating the illusion that they had beaten the IRA and that ‘terrorism never works’, while trying to discredit Irish Republicanism, perhaps?

    1. Well it doesn’t, decades of terrorist campaign and the North is no less sovereign British territory than it was at the start.

  2. The good Friday agreement was about bringing peace to the North, an honourable goal in its own right.

    Republicans may have chosen to believe this was a ceding of sovereignty but we now know otherwise.

      1. After twenty years the GFA has not delivered on its promises.

        I would say its time to move past the GFA but nationalists have nothing left to bargain with. Today’s youth are not going to take up arms for the sake of an acht na gaelige or customs border.

        1. Yet the so-called Dissidents continue to exist – and operate – despite almost no support in the country. They certainly have nothing to equal the levels of acceptance enjoyed by (P)IRA 1969-2005. I wouldn’t be so sure that customs posts wouldn’t serve as a recruiting aid to NIRA, CIRA, etc.

          1. Neither would do much to boost a sentiment of unity with southerners.

            Here’s what I see happening. The UK, free of the EU and wanting to prevent a return to violence will leave the border open. Ireland, inside the EU, will have to abide by EU law and that means customs checks at the least.

            That means we leave the EU or we play by their rules. In this scenario I would choose the former.

  3. This is not _just_ about Ireland, the Scots feel equally ignored, cheated and insulted. Can we somehow make common cause and with the help of any friends we still have in the EU at least show up the Westminster government for the myopic, backward-looking, self-centred fossils they are? Colonialism does indeed die hard 😦

    What has been the response of Dublin?

  4. The GFA was always a lie from the beginning. Republicans at the time were saying it. No agreement signed with Britain is worth the paper it is written on. Hume was right Shinners are slow learners.

  5. Ní thuigim an t-alt seo. Deirtear go soiléar sa bhreithiúnas:
    …”any other change”
    Is é an t-athrú sin go bhfuil tagairt ann dó ná athaontú na tíre.
    Ní thuigim conas is féidir leat a rá ansin go bhfuil sé le tuiscint ón mbreithiúnas nach ndearna an GFA aon athrú ar supremecy an Ríocht Aontaithe in Éirinn ós rud é go ndearbhaíonn an breithiúnas seo go mbeidh an tír athaontaithe má chaitheann tromlach na ndaoine sna sé chontae vóta ar a shon.
    Bíodh sin olc nó maith ní féidir a rá nach ann don gheallúint sin sa GFA agus deimhníonn an breithiúnas seo go soiléir.
    Bainim taitneamh as do chuid altanna de ghnáth ach sílim go bhfuil dul amú ort sa cheann seo.

  6. The GFA amendment of Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution inserted a Unionist Veto. 95 per cent of participating voters approved, supported by the Sinn Féin organisation. I voted No, and would do the same again, if given the chance. The question is : how long does it take for a penny to drop?

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