Agreement to be changed…

BEFORE the October talks begin, the Agreement will have been re-written, according to the News Letter. The paper says it “has learned that a Bill, making significant amendments to aspects of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (which enshrined the original peace deal in law), is being drafted. It will make changes to the Agreement with regard to the running of the Executive and Assembly, and the work of Stormont ministers on North-South bodies.”The article adds: ” The Government hopes to put it before Parliament in the autumn. The amendments are set to satisfy a large number of DUP demands and encompass proposals made in the Comprehensive Agreement of 2004.”

The News Letter says key elements include:

* making ministers more accountable to fellow ministers in the Executive, to the Assembly and to a new ministerial code of conduct;

* ensuring that ministers attending North-South meetings or working on cross-Border issues report back to the Executive.

I could be wrong, but this sounds like the pret-a-porter political deal more or less agreed at Leeds Castle. Remember, Leeds went for an ‘all or nothing’ deal, which fell down on decommissioning, although the political arrangements for the Executive and Assembly were apparently largely acceptable to the DUP and Sinn Fein, who say the only obstacle is the DUP’s refusal to sit on the Executive with them (is the quid pro quo Sinn Fein sitting on the Policing Board?) While gaps remained, both parties showed a degree of flexibility, although whether these changes are acceptable to the SDLP, UUP and Alliance is unlikely.

If correct, the legislation may provide a confidence booster to the DUP before the October talks, and Sinn Fein may not be in a strong position to attack the DUP over the changes, although it may provide the SDLP with some ammunition.

  • Curious


  • badger

    This is all very well, but after what happened yesterday at the PFG Committee how can anyone, Nationalist, Unionist or Alliance be expected to do business with Sinn Fein?

    Last week its representatives agreed the report from the economic subgroup; yesterday its representatives vetoed the very report that it and all other parties had agreed to at the PGF Committee.

    Thanks to the ‘News Letter’ for this almost hidden small but relatively important piece of information — certainly beats ‘Talkbacks’s’ coverage of “dogs’ weddings”. My, how that once mighty programme has fallen!

    Or maybe Alan McFarland has a point here: the press, according to one coverage on ‘Newshound’ the press is idle!!!!!!!!!

  • Ive had enough

    And do WE THE PEOPLE get to have another referendum on whether or not we agree to the changes being made to the agreement?

    Or is it solely up to the bunch of f*cking wankers who managed to get themselves elected in this country??

  • slug

    This is the accountability agenda that the DUP wanted. I have studied this question in detail and the true worth of these changes really do depend on the detail in the forthcoming bill.

  • slug

    Just to be a little more explicit on this, if you study the Comprehensive Agreement, you see it talks about making ministers more accountable. The general idea is this: a minister’s decision can be opposed by the assembly. If a sufficient number of MLAs support a reference, the ministers decision can be referred to the Executive. The key part of all of this is what the rules are for the Executive to override a minister. The rules could be anything from making it hard for a minister to be ovverridden to making it possible by a simple majority in the Exec. This was left unclear in the 2004 Comprehensive Agreement and the Bill would clarify this. Possibly all this is up for negotiation.

  • P Jon


    If you read the Comprehensive Agreement it is actually relatively clear.

    P Jon

  • Harry

    You’d think it was the outlines of world government you people are putting together, instead of the bureacratic organisation of a mere 1.7 million people.

  • Occasional Commentator

    slug, P Jon,
    You can get the text of the proposed agreement at the Wikipedia article. I must take a look at it and update the wiki article.

  • T.Ruth

    The big problem for the Unionist community is that it cannot rely on Sinn Fein to keep its word.The Assembly has failed previously, not because of Unionist intransigence, but because Sinn Fein can not come up to the democratic mark and has difficulty bringing its constituency into a Provincial Assembly within the United Kingdom without the private army to add muscle to its political ambitions.
    It would be important therefore in redrafting those aspects of the agreement that were so undemocratic and unsatisfactory that we include a clause that requires the government to immediately exclude from a new Executive any party that reneges on its agreements(as judged by the IMC).We cannot continue to seek for devolved government if one parties failure to meet its obligations under the Agreement can lead to the institutions being collapsed.
    Unaccountable Ministers and unaccountable NS or EW bodies were never the basis for progressive democratic government.

  • T.Ruth

    Sorry.Correction. One party’s failure. Combination of Senior moment/lateness of the hour/laziness and white wine. Proves that at least one person takes time to read my comments.

  • Billy

    As a GFA agreement supporter, I don’t have a problem with making ministers more accountable for their decisions.

    However, this must not be a method of simply giving the DUP a veto to try and stop or delay North-South co-operation.

    If they start cherry picking issues on a North-South basis then nationalist representatives (quite rightly) should walk out and the whole thing will be a waste of time.

  • Alan

    Re. Cherry picking.

    That is precisely what will happen, or will be used as a threat to cow other ministers.

    In order to have stability we need government, in order to have government we need to have to have institutions that enable parties to govern. There is, however, no way that you can use institutions to agree policies on behalf of parties. Yet government is about setting policy.

    The question is why do we need these measures for reigning in Ministers – it’s because of the system of designation and the consequent necessity to guard against ministerial actions in a system that rewards dissent.

  • To be fair to the DUP, some of their ideas in the area of accountability and Executive formation weren’t as awful as their detractors might believe.

    How the ideas translate into legislation is a different matter (just ask Sinn Fein on the OTRs bill – the Government could pull a fast one on the DUP too!)

  • slug

    Gonzo – I think the DUP accountability ideas are good. Basically we can’t have ministers each playing solo runs.

    P Jon – I looked at Paragraph 6 of the Comprehensive Agreement. While it was clear that a minister’s decision can be referred to the Executive and cross community decision making rules would be applied in the Executive, it was unclear whether the cross-community threshold would be needed to allow the ministers decision to stand, or whether cross community agreement is needed to overturn the ministers decision.

    If the former then that is a stronger form of restraint on the ministers than the latter.

    Thats why I think the devil lies in the detail.

    Let me know if you have any comments.

  • heck

    I thought the AGREEMENT was an international treaty between the people of ireland and britain. Voted on by the people of Northern Ireland and the irish republic.

    I read this article and saying the british govern -on is own -was changing the AGREEMENT on its own

    “It will make changes to the Agreement with regard to the running of the Executive and Assembly, and the work of Stormont ministers on North-South bodies”

    “The amendments are set to satisfy a large number of DUP demands”

    This is an AGREEMENT and it should not be changed by “Bills” from one party.

    It’s rather like a couple having a marriage AGREEMENT and one party deciding to change the rules.

  • POL

    Whats being said sounds all very well. But from a nationalist perspective the dup have`nt exactly inspired confidence.In fact when has the dup ever inspired confidence within nationalism,as their history pretty much dictates they are not simply anti-nationalist but anti-catholic.So you can bet that there will be a fair bit of fillibustering regardless of whether a policy is a good one, but simply because its a sinn fein one.

  • heck

    time for some basic constitutional law.

    The “Agreement” has no force in UK law.

    The Northern Ireland Act 1998 legislated for the provisions of the “Agreement”.

    That Act, like any other piece of legislation, can be ammended or repealed as parliament, and parliament alone, wishes.

    BTW any international treaty would be between Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland.

  • heck


    Ie it is not an AGREEMENT.

    if it is “ammended or repealed” by parliament then Britain has broken the AGREEMENT

  • DK

    Also the DUP didn’t sign up to the GFA, so why should they care if it gets changed. They are after a new agreement that they can sign. If it is just GFA with extra ministerial checks to please the DUP and more cross-border bodies to please Sinn Fein, then big deal. A lot of this is face saving.

  • Keith M

    This is like the old question of when is a car still a car. If you change the tyres, is is it still the same car? If you change all the bodywork, is is it still the same car? If you change the engine is is it still the same car? If you change the chasis, is is it still the same car?

    Personally I don’t care. Once the dismantling of the 1998 agreement begun, it was always going to steadily unravel until a fairer and more sustainable agreement was made. If it suits people to call this new deal a change to the original one for costmetic and political purposes then fine. What’s important is the substance, not the window dressing.

  • Jo


    As you link to an “Ulster 1912” blogspot, it seems ironic that you intervene to assert the legislative power and ultimate authority of Parliament and simultaneously celebrate events designed to subvert the will of that Parliament?


  • heck

    if this is the case then why make and agreement with the British. They won’t keep it.

    I remember , when I was a lot younger, people using that reasoning to justify the war. It seams like you are agreeing with them.

    SF kept up their end of the agreement (albeit rather late). The unionist community have not and not the Brits are welching.

  • Keith M

    heck “SF kept up their end of the agreement (albeit rather late). ”

    Decommissioning had to be complete by May 2000 and the IRA was to supposed to go away. So no, they quite obviously didn’t.

  • Jo

    merely pointing out the constitutional reality. Trying the bring light etc…


    back in 1998 neither the Republicans nor their Irish sponsors fully appreciated the constitutional implications of what was being done. Of course politics and law are two very different beasts and it may be that change to the Act won’t annoy most of the parties to the “Agreement”.

  • lib2016

    The Agreement was always about ‘fudges’ or it would never have been made. We know that the vast majority of people are in favour of it and which parties and governments have persevered in finding ways to delay it’s implementation.

    There’s nothing to fear here for nationalists. If the Brits don’t go ahead now then they will have hell to pay within a few years. Unionists have delayed so long whether by accident or design they have lost their undemocratic veto.

    If the Assembly doesn’t prove to be a useful body it will disapppear within a few years.

  • lib2016

    “If the Brits don’t go ahead now then they will have hell to pay within a few years”

    You chaps going back to doing what you do best?

  • Mike

    heck –

    I would refer you to the Irish Government’s unilateral changes to its citizenship laws c.2000 which were in explicit breach of the letter of the Agreement. As was their right.

    Also, these current legislatives changes were agreed in principle with the Irish Government anyway, at the time of the ‘Comprehensive Agreement’.