Belfast Agreement: an instability pact?

In the context of the announcement of the latest figures, academic Richard Bourke tries to get to the bottom of the current constitutional hiatus in NI.

He suggests there are key two principles within the Belfast Agreement that are working in direct contradiction: the need for dual consent within the current parliamentary structure; and possibility that transference of sovereignty could be decided on a simple majority vote.

In this he see a huge irony:

“…this entitlement amounts to a reassertion of the principle of majority sovereignty that reigned supreme in unionist thinking back in 1969. Given that the parties are supposed to have moved beyond this type of arrangement to one based on power-sharing, it is an irony that the old Stormont insistence on investing supreme authority in the exclusive hands of the “greater number of people” has been smuggled into the constitution of Northern Ireland once again.”

He goes on:

“Even if the sectarian demography of Northern Ireland were to remain stable, the political annexation of a Northern Protestant rump by the “democratic” right invested in a Northern Catholic majority would simply not arise. Nonetheless, it is the sheer burden of expectation that also poses a problem: the mere anticipation of an Irish union provokes consternation on one side, while it fuels revolutionary ardour on the other.”

And finally:

“This is hardly a recipe for long-term moderation in the political life of Northern Ireland. Indeed, it makes a nonsense of the idea that the Good Friday agreement should be greeted as a durable settlement.”

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