British Government does not understand Good Friday Agreement – Taoiseach

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The Taoiseach has claimed the British Government does not “fully get” the Good Friday Agreement following its plans to override parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Micheal Martin said the publication of the Bill was a “profoundly dispiriting moment”.

Mr Martin warned the move to override parts of the international deal could “destabilise” politics in Northern Ireland, describing it as “economically incoherent”.

Speaking in the Dail, Mr Martin said: “I want to say fundamentally, and it is with regret I say this, I do get the sense the current British government don’t fully get the Good Friday Agreement or don’t understand the DNA of the Good Friday Agreement and what it really means in terms of the involvement and the co-guarantor nature of it between the British and Irish government.

NI Assembly crisis
Sinn Fen leader Mary Lou McDonald said the move by the Prime Minister was “disgraceful and utterly reckless” (Liam McBurney/PA)

“But also the wider interest from the European Union and from the United States, and parallel with that we’re now witnessing a denial of democracy, where people have voted in Northern Ireland for the convening of an Assembly and the formation of an Executive. It’s not acceptable that the Assembly has not been convened.

“I believe that the publication of this legislation yesterday by the British government and the contribution of various British government ministers, who have attempted to justify it, was a profoundly dispiriting moment.”

He said the publication of the Bill and the reaction to it from within the British Government is “profoundly damaging”.

“It demonstrates the degree to which the British Government seems oblivious now to the various sets of relationships that it has engaged in, and indeed, to an international agreement that it itself signed up to, promoted its ratification in the Westminster Parliament, and now have unilaterally decided to potentially upend,” Mr Martin added.

He said the legislation, which would give powers to British ministers to unilaterally override aspects of the protocol, was “reckless”.

“It’s the kind of legislation that clearly was framed without any significant engagement with industry in Northern Ireland,” he added.

Sinn Fen leader Mary Lou McDonald said the move by the Prime Minister was “disgraceful and utterly reckless”.

She accused Boris Johnson of using the issue to cling to power.

“Mr Johnson’s belligerent approach to Ireland is part of a cynical attempt to cling to power in Britain at any cost,” Ms McDonald added.

“It jeopardises so much achieved by so many over such a long period of time.

“It fundamentally undermines the Brexit protections for Ireland that were so hard won, and it risks serious economic and political damage.

“This latest move is part of a wider wrecking agenda that seeks to undermine the Good Friday Agreement and to rob our people of a better future.”

She added: “Taoiseach, we need an all of Oireachtas approach in standing up to Boris Johnson’s renewed attempt to bully Ireland. We will not be bullied.

“We know that we’re not alone. Boris Johnson’s dangerous move has been strongly condemned in the United States and Europe, indeed across the world.

“The Tory government is pursuing a hostile, damaging attack against the Good Friday Agreement.”

The protocol arrangements require regulatory checks and customs declarations on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Unionists in Northern Ireland are vociferously opposed to the international treaty, claiming it has undermined the region’s place within the United Kingdom.

The DUP has blocked the formation of a new power-sharing government at Stormont following last month’s Assembly election in protest.

Labour’s Ivana Bacik was particularly critical of Mr Johnson’s handling of the issue, comparing him to Donald Trump.

“Where compromise and trust are needed, we see instead the British government opting to ratchet up tensions by pursuing unilateral actions and by ignoring its international obligations,” Ms Bacik added.

“Effectively, we’re seeing Johnson’s government acting like a rogue state. It’s as if Donald Trump had moved into Number 10 Downing Street.

“This is clearly a matter of immense concern to all of us and it will have notably the most difficult and the most devastating effect on the people of Northern Ireland, who we are effectively being used by the Tory government as a proxy in their own internal battle.”

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