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That new dispensation in the North…. August 14, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Have to agree with Newton Emerson for once, where in a recent column he notes that:

It is fitting that the North-South Ministerial Council reconvened in Dublin Castle last Friday for its first full meeting since November 2016.

Of all the institutions of the Belfast Agreement, the council most closely reflects John Hume’s vision. Stormont is the least relevant in this respect, despite its prominence in how the peace process is judged.

As Emerson notes, following the failure of reform in Northern Ireland internally, and responsibility which Emerson correctly ascribes ‘overwhelmingly’ to unionism, Hume sought not a local settlement but one which encompassed the whole island. Hence the Council of Ireland in 1973 and later the AIA and so on. Interestingly Emerson argues that of the three strands of the GFA/BA – the Executive/Assembly, the NSMC and the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, the latter was meant to ‘fade away’ with Stormont acquiring more power and the NSMC also expanding its remit from the original six areas of cooperation. That said in the years since the GFA/BA was implemented (more rather than in full) little growth has been seen on the NSMC front.

And I cannot fault Emerson when he writes:

The danger of Stormont for nationalists is that it becomes the natural focus of all Northern Ireland politics, to the extent of creating an internal settlement.

If a fraction of the care put into maintaining devolution was shown to the North-South Ministerial Council, it still has the potential John Hume imagined.

It’s hardly a stretch to see a situation develop in the next ten years or so where that focus remains in NI and the NSMC has little particular life. Particularly given the aversion FF has to such matters. Yet the GFA/BA explicitly is about building on the NSMC.

BTW the EU has gone AWOL in Emerson’s analysis completely. Ah well.

There’s another point riffing on Emerson’s article that is perhaps pertinent. His point that the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference would fade away is perhaps worth reflecting on. Assume that at some point an agreed Ireland springs into being. How would that work and what if elements of political unionism were participating in that as part of an Irish government – say propping up one of the larger parties?

And speaking of the BIIC, check out the pattern of meetings.


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