Once again in the Irish News (it may prove to be worth the next month’s subscription), Brian Feeney declares that we should forget about trying to make the Assembly work and jump to strand three of the Agreement, the part that makes provision for the British – Irish Council and the British – Irish Intergovernmental Conference.
“…the Stormont assembly is not the agreement. Theres a lot more to it. In fact the British-Irish Intergovernmental Council (BIIC) of strand three is arguably the best route for forcing the pace of change and was deliberately designed as a revamp of the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreements secretariat. It is a standing conference bringing together the British and Irish governments to promote bilateral cooperation at all levels on all matters of mutual interest within the competence of both governments. Pretty comprehensive eh?”
He goes on:
“The thinking was that the BIIC is so powerful that unionists would cooperate with power-sharing to avoid the BIIC running the north. It holds regular and frequent meetings concerned with non-devolved Northern Ireland matters. After Stormont is suspended, that means everything. For many nationalists who watched in dismay as unionists managed to slow the pace of change to a glacial rate, the BIIC is the silver lining in the collapse of strand one, the way to avoid a cryogenic state. In the coming months it is up to the nationalist parties to demand that Dublin produces a programme of action for the BIIC and makes determined efforts to require the British to deliver the changes promised in the agreement which hasnt gone away, you know.”
However there are a number of other elements to the Agreement that remain unresolved (decommissioning, security and policing to name the most significant), and at this stage it seems unlikely that either government will risk alienating what is now a clear majority of Unionist opinion by going for fullscale implimentation of Strand 3 without democratic institutions within NI (Strand 1) or North/South bodies (Strand 2).
Update: Newshound has secured a copy of the original article here.