Sinn Fein has abandoned the Belfast Agreement

Sean Farren believes that Sinn Fein moved decisively away from an inclusive power sharing deal and in effect accepted the priniciple of a voluntary coalition when it signed up to the so-called comprehensive agreement in December 2004.From Sean Farren:

The very manner in which Sinn Fein have conducted negotiations has effectively conceded a unionist veto on the restoration of the institutions. So long as they insist that an Agreement between Sinn Fein and the DUP is a pre requisite for restoration they will give the DUP a veto on the re establishment of the Agreements institutions.

Sinn Fein spokespersons have described the December 2004 comprehensive agreement as ‘a deal negotiated by Sinn Fein and the DUP’. That deal would have conceded serious departures from the Good Friday Agreement to the DUP and even had the IRA adopting the DUP language of a ‘new agreement’.

Sinn Fein now say that power sharing is the core of the agreement. The key fact is that inclusive power sharing is the core of the Agreement. The Sinn Fein/DUP deal of December 04 abandoned the inclusive principles of the Agreement by providing for new legislation to automatically exclude from ministerial office other parties who would not vote them into office as First and Deputy First Ministers.

Whereas the SDLP have rejected all the DUPs suggestions of voluntary coalition, Sinn Fein readily agreed the essence of voluntary coalition with the DUP with other parties excluded in December 04.

For the SDLP the goal is the full implementation and working of the Agreement. We have never put forward proposals as an alternative to the Agreement, only as an alternative to stalemate, suspension and Direct Rule. Sinn Fein will never be in a position to lecture us about the Agreement and its implementation. Their approach has given us 3 years of suspension and stalemate. Their approach has conceded a veto to anti agreement unionism. Our approach sees everything put up too all the political parties.

That is why we want to move towards a restoration of the institutions. Sinn Fein’s approach sees everything being kicked back to the British and Direct Rule. The SDLP will continue to work for what the people of Ireland voted for – the full and faithful implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Of course, Sinn Fein are not actually looking for this. They are simply looking for more side deals with the DUP.”

  • martin ingram

    Just give it another year!


  • kate

    ‘They are simply looking for more side deals with the DUP’.


  • missfitz

    “We have never put forward proposals as an alternative to the Agreement, only as an alternative to stalemate, suspension and Direct Rule.”

    I think this is the key to the statement, paarticularly in light of Durkan’s recent and less than coherent message of the weekend.

    We are for a 100% deal and will settle for nothing less. Unless we have to.

  • Crataegus

    For years, through thick and thin, the SDLP insisted on the inclusion of SF and now the boot is on the other foot they get shafted.


    OK, I like sticking the boot into the shinners as much as any sane and rational human being, but I do think they are being unfairly criticised on this one.
    They’re seeking the deal that suits them best, isn’t that what they were elected to do?
    this is a process after all, nothing stands still.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The political process as it stands today is one which the SDLP supported, promoted and defended. The only difference now is that the SDLP were the underdog. Back in the time of John Hume, the side deals and the bipartisan arrangements between the two biggest parties were the order of the day. Now that the SDLP have found that they are no longer one of those two, they are beginning to see the disadvantages of the sectarian, tribal approach they have supported since the mid-1970s.

    Screw the side deals and the smoke and mirrors negotiations – it’s time for all-party talks.

  • Seano

    As a life long Republican sympathiser, I feel nothing but utter contempt for Sinn Fein and their selfish, hollowed out Republican ideology.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    What’s wrong with voluntary coalition? It works in Dublin, where Sinn Fein seem very happy with it, for obvious reasons.

    Maybe the SDLP are more worried about being left out, because of their lower representation might not justify many big jobs in such a coalition!

  • Henry94


    All-party talks would be ideal. But the unionists refuse. If anyone is responsible for all the side-dealing it is the British government.

    They should restore the Assembly and let those who want to boycott stay outside the gate.

    Decommissioning has been completed and the government know that for a fact. So there is no excuse for the current state of affairs.

    Both the SDLP and the DUP have a fetish about the agreement.

    The DUP want enough superficial change to be able to claim it’s gone and the SDLP don’t want any superficial change at all.

    b Belfast Gonzo

    What’s wrong with voluntary coalition?

    It is a fantasy in which the SDLP commit political suicide in order to protect unionism from facing up to its responsibilities.

    Unless you mean that those parties willing to turn up and do their job be allowed do so with the others entitled to join in when they grow up.

  • aquifer

    Voluntary coalition may be necessary to make executive politics work at all.

    If parties don’t volunteer to take collective responsibility in an executive in some way, they can’t be held responsible for its collective decisions, and it is then difficult to make them accountable at all.

    One solution would be to have a system for forming the executive that would allow a cross-sectarian group of parties first pick of the top jobs, guaranteeing the smaller jobs for the significant others.

    e.g. By allowing a pre-vote to identify the pre-negotiated ‘ruling coalition’, then to allow them to use their joint voting strength to take the jobs they prefer, and finally to allow the rest of the parties in the assembly to vote on filling the executive jobs that are left.

    Inclusive and accountable.

    And hopefully there would be enough ‘excluded others’ left to form a real opposition for scrutiny of executive decisions.

    Anybody got a better suggestion?

    If not, go to it Peter Hain.

  • Alan

    “Anybody got a better suggestion?”

    Drop De Honte, drop community voting ; require 65% on Ministers and contentious votes. Let the storm break and see if the politicos can work it.

    If the “opposition” want power, you either negotiate it, make your policies more attractive to the electorate or content yourself with opposition.

    But are we mature enough to walk the democratic, as opposed to the sectarian, talk.

  • The Dubliner

    This is an ‘opinion peice’ by Sean Farren. It is not a statement of fact. Do try to learn the difference – unless the urgency of a misguided divide and conquer agenda compels you to expediently ignore it. 😉

  • Xabi Alonso

    Good to see someone (Farren) talking sense.

    What exactly are Sinn Fein doing to move things forward?

    And, are they going to say anything about the return to prison of Aengus O’Snodaigh’s close associate Niall Binead?

  • Belfastwhite


    Shouldn’t your question be who other than Sinn Fein are doing anything to move the process forward?

  • aquifer

    For some queer reason the Brits and Bertie feel obliged to have the parties, who have their political identities invested in division, negotiate a settlement. Like asking turkeys to set the table at christmas time.

    The GFA is binding on everyone. The governments should go over the politicians’ heads back to the people if they have to.