Mallon: ruling parties have put Good Friday agreement in jeopardy
Former Deputy first Minister of Northern Ireland and long-serving Armagh MP Seamus Mallon, now aged 81, criticised the DUP and Sinn Fein for wasting the last eleven years in power at Stormont and jeopardising the Good Friday Agreement itself.
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Agreement he said this week: “It is an absolute shame that so much time and opportunity has been wasted by two parties (the DUP and Sinn Fein) who were not working the very essence of the agreement, which was inclusivity and had the remit to create cooperation and reconciliation.
“Instead, they set up their two political silos, they looked after what they would have regarded as their own and made no advances at all, or no effort in terms of creating a reconciled community in the north of Ireland.
“For them politics was about victory, it was binary, it was them or us, it became a ‘them or us’ political Executive.
“The main objective of each of those two large political parties was not to work the agreement for the people of Northern Ireland but to work it for their own party political advantages. Meanwhile, former First Minister of Northern Ireland and UUP leader David Trimble has accused the Irish government government of risking provoking violence from loyalist paramilitaries because of its opposition to Brexit.
Referring to the so-called “backstop” deal which Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Foreign Minister Simon Coveney say will block Brexit if it looks like it will return a hard border to Northern Ireland Lord Trimble said any Brexit deal to keep Northern Ireland in line with the Republic would be a violation of the Good Friday Agreement. He was one of the key signatories of the Good Friday Agreement which is twenty years old this week.
As a result he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with SDLP leader John Hume in 1998. Trimble, who is now a Conservative Party peer in the House of Lords, said: “What is happening now is that people are talking up the issue of Brexit and the border for the benefit of a different agenda from the agreement.
“The one thing that would provoke loyalist paramilitaries is the present Irish government saying silly things about the border and the constitutional issue.
“If it looks as though the constitutional arrangements of the agreement, based on the principle of consent, are going to be superseded by so-called ‘special EU status’ then that is going to weaken the union and undermine the very agreement that Dublin says it wants to uphold.
“I believe that some senior Irish government officials go around Brussels talking about the ‘Hong Kong model’ – the one country, two systems idea.
“That is a precedent they talk about where sovereignty has been transferred from Britain to China. Anything that looks remotely like this or is building on that foundation would be extremely dangerous. Although I think that under this Conservative government I cannot see that prevailing.”
Lord Trimble, who saw his once dominant party eventually lose all its Westminster seats – just like the SDLP – and be displaced in the Stormont Assembly by the DUP just as the SDLP was ousted by Sinn Fein said he did not regret signing up to the Good Friday Agreement but felt he should have worked more closely with then Prime Minister Tony Blair after the deal.
“I genuinely believe that Blair was the last person to back a strategy which effectively saw the two centre parties, the UUP and the SDLP, abandoned.
“In fact I know now it was a very senior civil servant in the Northern Ireland Office who agreed to the strategy, proposed by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin.”