The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson, MP, and Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey, MLA, appeared separately on UTV Live this evening to give their thoughts on the 15th anniversary of the 1998 Agreement. Apparently Alex Maskey hadn’t arrived at the studio in time for the first segment… Whether by accident, or design, it was left to presenter
Seamus McKee Paul Clark to ask the obvious question to Alex Maskey’s opening assertion. Here’s what the Sinn Féin MLA claimed
The fundamental difference between before the Good Friday Agreement and after the Good Friday Agreement is that the British Government, and the British State, no longer claim jurisdiction over this part of the island. That’s very very important, and that’s a very important building block for us to convince those who, at this moment in time, don’t support the idea of a united Ireland that it is in their best interests. [added emphasis]
Well, good luck with that, Alex. Particularly if that’s your starting point. [Does he know that his bat’s been broken? – Ed] Possibly…
Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom was recognised in the 1998 Agreement itself – as was the point that “it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people”.
And, as I’ve mentioned before
Apart from those matters which remained reserved to the “British Government”. Like MI5 and SOCA, for example. In terms of “jurisdiction”, it’s similar to the position of the pre-1972 Parliament of Northern Ireland.
Indeed, the ‘claim’ was cited by the stand-in NI Deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd, in October 2011 when he was explaining why he would not be prepared to meet the UK Head of State (Queen Elizabeth II).
“There are a number of issues which need to be resolved before such a scenario would arise, including from a republican point of view, we were meeting a family who would claim to be our heads of state.
“Republicans don’t accept that.”
Although, the then-once-and-future NI Deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, subsequently did meet the UK Head of State during the Jubilee tour of her United Kingdom.
And, back in 1997, the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams also cited the ‘claim’ when explaining why his party refused to take their seats in the House of Commons.
Mr Adams said the question of the oath was “a bit of a distraction”. While a change might be good for British democracy, it would not alter Sinn Fein’s position. Asked if he could see himself sitting in the Commons following a change to the oath, Mr Adams said: “No, because the issue for us is the claim of that parliament to jurisdiction in Ireland.”
But, if Sinn Féin are now arguing that that changed after the Good Friday Agreement of 1998…
Here’s Alex Maskey on UTV Live