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Northern news February 28, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Hmmm… what to make of Newton Emerson’s latest thoughts on the issue of cooperation between Dublin and London. He’s very critical of the current state of affairs.

During the last Stormont collapse, between 2002 and 2007, Ahern ran a model of British-Irish co-operation, restoring devolution while fully upholding the integrity of the Belfast Agreement.
London and Dublin’s handling of the latest crisis, by contrast, has been a fiasco.

Okay. But this simply isn’t comparing like and like. Ahern and Blair were key architects of the GFA/BA. May and Varadkar (or Coveney) are not. Indeed it is not unfair to say that May in particular is leader of a party that has been disinterested at best in the functioning of the Agreement.
And Emerson, to his credit does acknowledge this:

Coveney cannot be held even half responsible for this, as there is only so much Ireland can do when Britain declines to turn up. Nevertheless, a pointed comparison must be made.

He continues:

The agreement’s mechanism for co-operation between London and Dublin is the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, a standing body based in Belfast.
It is meant to meet regularly at ministerial level, with heads of government summits as required. Its remit covers non-devolved matters and review of the overall settlement. The UK remains sovereign but Ireland’s consultative role extends to making proposals. Stormont ministers may be involved when relevant, although again only on non-devolved matters.
The conference kept to a full schedule throughout the five-year suspension, averaging three ministerial meetings and one summit per year. It also kept strictly to its remit, never once straying into any devolved issue despite the absence of devolution.

But again, not like with like. He notes that subsequent to this the conference was quietly shelved in 2007. Now huge criticism can be directed at London and Dublin over this, but as he also acknowledges, in a way the shelving was a function of success, matters appeared resolved for the most part.
He is right that Enda Kenny should have worked the GFA/BA due to Brexit. And he is correct when he says:

So when Stormont collapsed last January, there was no active British-Irish structure to address it.

And he is even more correct when he notes:

Irish alarm at Brexit and the DUP-Tory deal may make hostility understandable but that is a reason for more careful adherence to structure. The DUP-Tory deal contains a Chinese wall between Westminster and Northern Ireland affairs; the remit of the conference would be ideal for policing breaches.

The essential problem is this. A lack of interest, a wish, or a hope, or whatever that the issue of the North was essentially parked in a pre-Brexit world and now, in a Brexit world all is chaos.
In a sense all this is, difficult as it may be to admit it, a sideshow. Until the nature of the final state of Brexit is apparent all the efforts of the governments or whoever in relation to the North will be marginal. Not entirely so, but to a large degree.


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