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Ireland Indicates A Harder Line On Irish, British And EU Negotiations Over Brexit

Charlie Flanagan TD, the minister for foreign affairs, has written a surprisingly forceful article for the New European, a pro-EU magazine in the United Kingdom, setting out Ireland’s expectation that the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 will be part of the “letter and spirit” of any final Brexit deal between Brussels and London:

For Northern Ireland, which itself voted to remain but will exit the EU along with the rest of the UK, there is a risk of profoundly negative consequences. The duty of Ireland and the UK, as co-guarantors of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, is to work within these negotiations to avoid such consequences.

Given the recent history of conflict and division during the years of the Troubles, the day-to-day interconnectedness of life on the island of Ireland that we enjoy in 2017 was unimaginable just 20 years ago, before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. For example, more than 30,000 people cross the open border every day for work, for school, for university, or to visit family and friends. Specialist Medical services such as cancer care are organised on an all island basis. The food industry North and South is deeply integrated. The list goes on and, put simply, life is normal.

As Ireland’s Foreign Minister I know that getting to that simple but invaluable word ‘normal’ takes a lot of hard work and willingness to compromise – elements which will be needed in the Brexit negotiations.

Hard work has led to an encouraging start – albeit just a start. Both negotiating parties on Brexit, the EU (including Ireland) and the UK have formally highlighted the border in Ireland and the absolute necessity of full respect for every element of the Good Friday Agreement. It is an internationally recognised treaty (registered with the United Nations), which will have to be fully respected in letter and spirit, and even stitched into the fabric of any Brexit agreement. The peace dividend, which has been achieved on the island of Ireland over the past 20 years, must not be jeopardised.

Britain would almost certainly baulk at the idea of the Irish-British peace accords of the 1990s and early 2000s being incorporated into its final exit agreement from the European Union. However the Fine Gael minister seems to be indicating that this may become a key demand from Dublin. Is the government adopting a harder line in the face of confusion and lacklustre cooperation from the Tory administration of Theresa May?

8 comments on “Ireland Indicates A Harder Line On Irish, British And EU Negotiations Over Brexit

  1. Graham Ennis

    Charlie Flanagan, as Foreign Minister, is actually doing a good job here, and doing what he is paid to. The peace agreement is most certainly an international Treaty, it is legally binding, and the Tory UK Government are about to violate the Treaty. (What else would you expect of them?) . The root problem in all this is Anglo-Saxon Racism, the sort of arrogant, “Look down your nose at the “Natives” arrogance of the UK ruling class. To them, Ireland is a hugely irritating nuisance that they pay attention to only when they absolutely have to, and they wish would go away. When they do pay attention, it is with great reluctance, and they have always an approach towards Irish “Natives” that sees everything through the prism of Ireland being a troublesome colonial possession. As people learned during the recent war, it literally takes a bomb under the British establishments arse, to get them to pay attention, and to deal with “Irish problems”. Anything less than that, and they will politely ignore You. Those are the ground rules. So if they could get away with ignoring the situation that is building in the North, and doing nothing, they will do so. They are past masters at the art of procrastination, doing nothing, ignoring completely the situation until large scale violence breaks out, then doing all the worst possible things to make the situation worse, due to the cultural racism that effects the British Ruling Elite in all matters Irish. My only criticism of the Foreign Minister is that he is not being bloody minded and forceful enough in dealing with London. I think the only way you get their attention, and make them do what they should be doing, which is respecting and obeying the United Nations Treaties, and negotiating a solution in good faith, (British Elite, good faith?….Loud howling noises), is by being very loud, very forceful, very angry, and very determined. Anything else will simply get you ignored. In this, I think Ireland has some very large strategic diplomatic and political weapons. There is a solid block of USA senators and Congressmen who represent the Irish Diaspora in America, and who can be brought to bear with heavy duty pressure, via the US Government, in the same way that was done in the time of the Clinton administration, to forcibly bring about the original peace agreement. Ditto the EU Institutions, and the EU Parliament. Ireland is in very good standing in the EU, has excellent relations with most of the EU states, and has a large amount of good will that can be tapped. It has existing, de-facto alliances, that can be used, as part of BREXIT negotiations, to put excruciating pressures on the UK Elite. The very clear objective is the preservation of the open border with the North, if necessary by creating a closed border with the UK mainland, and ditto the common travel area will have to go, with passport travel required. Anything less, is simply going to wreck the peace agreement, and lead to terrible hardship in the North. The Peace agreement is in huge crisis anyway. Go for it, Charlie Flanagan, be as bloody minded as you can. Nothing else works.


    • Unusually straightforward language for a government which has been extremely hesitant in “pushing” the UK too much. That is to be welcomed and may indicate that Dublin is growing frustrated with British obstinacy on the subject.


    • bullykiller

      Well said Graham! The only thing that worries me is the Trump administration. I could see them mostly supporting the Brexit Tories in any row with the Irish. The Trump base are full of Alt right views, which is shared by many Tories in England and DUP bigots in the North. I don´t think the supporters of the Irish peace process in the States will have the same sympathetic ear as previously if a row breaks out concerning the North. I hope I´m wrong.


      • Trump has a course n both Clare and Scotland so he could mediate plus the EU could get support of China , India if things become sour


  2. I simply don’t understand why British administrations, of every colour, have been so keen on hanging on to the North, which is hardly any sort of asset, more like an annoying boil on your bum. Just sign it over to the Republic, “Catch!” Orange Order and all. It wouldn’t after all be the first “Retreat from Empire” regardless of consequences for those ‘abandoned’.


    • Because nation-states rarely choose to free or return territory they claim. Invariably it takes force of some sort to drive territorial transfer, even when the change is in the interest of the nation-state losing the claimed territory. Why did England/Britain claim Ireland for 700 years when the country it claimed was in perpetual rebellion? The specific dynamics may have evolved over the century in relation to the current claim to PART of Ireland but the “tribal” instinct to hold what Britain has remains.

      As well ask, why hang on to the Falkland Islands or other weird outcrops of the empire (of which there is a surprising amount)?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Seanán Ó Coistín

    Ba chóir do Rialtas na hÉireann cois a chur i dtaca nuair a bheidh na caibidlí ag tarlú. Ba chóir go mbeadh Rialtas na hÉireann go huile is go hiomlán ar thaobh an Aontais Eorpaigh agus gan a bheith ag iarraidh bheith báúil don Ríocht Aontaithe. Ní leas na hÉireann é a bheith ag tacú leis an Ríocht Aontaithe.


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