Unionist politicians of all shades seem united in their objections to the legislation in the Irish parliament to keep the six crossborder bodies operating despite the suspension of the assembly. All that is except the DUP in the shape of Nigel Dodds who is asking whether the UUP leader actually knew about the arrangements beforehand.
Though some Unionists believe this move is indicative of bad faith on the part of the southern Government, it’s apparent from this exchange in Seanad Eireann last week that this legislation was a result of an agreed strategy between the British and Irish governments, to put the future of cross-border bodies beyond question:
“Under the terms of the international agreement, the North-South bodies were placed under the direction of the North-South Ministerial Council. At Council meetings Northern and Southern Ministers jointly direct and mandate the work programmes of the bodies in accordance with their statutory functions as laid down in the international agreement. The bodies are accountable to the Council for the fulfilment of their mandates and also require Council approval for a wide range of administrative matters such as annual budgets, operating plans, staffing levels and the appointment of board members.”
“Due to the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly, it is, unfortunately, not possible for the Council to meet. In the absence of Council meetings, the North-South bodies are unable to receive the necessary ministerial direction for their work and approval in relation to their administrative affairs. The system put in place to ensure their proper accountability, therefore, cannot function as it should.”
“The two Governments are determined that the temporary suspension of the Assembly should not jeopardise the achievements of the Good Friday Agreement and, therefore, in order to protect and maintain the North-South bodies during the  period of suspension, the two Governments last week signed a supplementary agreement which amends the agreements under which the North-South bodies were established.”
“This supplementary agreement will enable the two Governments to take decisions in relation to the North-South bodies which would ordinarily be taken by the North-South Ministerial Council. It was concluded by an exchange of letters between my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the British ambassador. The text of these letters forms a Schedule to the Bill. It is now necessary for us to give effect in domestic legislation to these agreed temporary changes in the governance of the North-South bodies and that is the purpose of the Bill.”
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