It seems that the Democratic Unionist Party has successfully completed its hijacking of the United Kingdom’s foreign relations. Or at least, its diplomatic relations with Ireland. Late on Tuesday night, Simon Coveney, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, pointed out that any return to “direct rule” by London over the UK-administered Six Counties would require a significant input from Dublin if Britain was to remain true to its international obligations under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and associated treaties.
There can be no British-only direct rule, is the Irish Government’s position.
Clearly there will be a changing role at Westminster in the context of decision making in Northern Ireland. But the Good Friday Agreement is very clear that on some issues in Northern Ireland the Irish Government has a role to play, on North South issues, and we have a legal obligation to do that.
So, I think it would be very difficult to even contemplate how direct rule would function in that context. And we don’t want to go there.
It’s not good for Northern Ireland, it’s not good from the point of view of the Government that I am part of, it’s not good from the point of view of the government in London, and I think everybody loses in that scenario.
And so, let’s not forget what the opportunity cost here is of not doing a deal in the context of setting up a devolved government structure that functions again in Northern Ireland. Because it is a very significant cost…
Within an hour, the British authorities released an official statement which must have been music to the ears of the recalcitrant DUP. If indeed it was not written with the party’s input and approval.
The UK Government, along with the Irish government, is engaging intensively with the Northern Ireland parties to secure the reestablishment of inclusive, devolved government at Stormont, and the operation of all the institutions established under the Belfast Agreement. That ¡s our clear objective and we are determined to succeed.
Should this not prove possible, in the absence of devolved government, it is ultimately for the United Kingdom Government to provide the certainty over delivery of public services and good governance in Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom. This is consistent with our obligations under the Belfast Agreement.
We will never countenance any arrangement, such as Joint Authority, inconsistent with the principle of consent in the Agreement.
To add insult to injury, and to illustrate how deeply the Conservative Party government in Britain is indebted to the Democratic Unionists, during parliamentary questions the lameduck prime minister, Theresa May, issued this rebuff to Irish good intentions:
I am happy to confirm that we will not be looking at a joint authority.
…will be aware that the Belfast Agreement does include within it certain responsibilities in relation to the Government of the Republic of Ireland in North-South coordination, but I think that the focus for all of us should be on trying to ensure that we can resolve the current differences and we can see that devolved administration reasserted in Northern Ireland.
I think that is what would be best for the people of Northern Ireland.
May’s statement followed reports in the UK press that the premier was preparing to reject recommended boundary changes for Westminster constituencies in order to protect the vulnerable seats of unionist MPs in the north of Ireland. In other words, old fashioned gerrymandering to prevent the growing northern nationalist electorate in the contested region achieving parity of political representation with pro-union parties. Like the DUP.
Just in case you’re wondering, that sound you can hear is the Irish-British peace process going up in flames while the Dupes and Tories clap their hands in glee.