Joint authority? “What on earth have you been smoking?”

In the Irish Times Newton Emerson takes issue with two of the talking points being promoted by the SDLP and Sinn Féin – EU ‘special status’ for Northern Ireland and ‘joint authority’.  From the Irish Times

Northern nationalism has an alternative to Brexit – special status for the North within the EU.

Nobody has a clue what this means but at least Brussels has been asked if it will consider the possibility (it has said no).

Northern nationalism also has an alternative to direct rule from London. Should Stormont collapse, there must instead be ‘joint authority’ .

Nobody knows what this means either and Dublin has not been asked, which seems like quite an oversight, considering how much store is being set by southern input.

As he goes on to note

A trawl of every peace process document and statement over the past two decades appears to have taken place, looking for the term “joint”. Not since the last Cheech and Chong movie can there have been a search for joints quite so desperate and farcical.

All that could be found in the mountain of verbiage was a single 2006 statement from Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, representing the British and Irish governments, where they referred to “implications for their joint stewardship of the process” if the St Andrews agreement talks of that year ended in failure.

They specified these implications as continuing to develop the other elements of the Good Friday Agreement, including cross-border and east-west bodies, in the absence of a Stormont Executive.

Sinn Féin is now portraying this as an official plan B for joint authority, within the terms of the peace process.

Perhaps the party should be commended for trying to stay within agreed limits but its historical interpretation is finding few takers, not just because it is obviously nonsense but because it clearly misses the point.

Disaffected nationalists do not want a form of joint authority compatible with the peace process. They want joint authority as a replacement for the peace process.

It is hard to overstate what a complete start from scratch such a new settlement would entail. There is no serious precedent for joint authority in the modern world, except over stretches of water or ice. The exercise of authority turns almost immediately into a question of sovereignty, which by definition must ultimately be indivisible.

It’s also worth noting that whilst the UK Government remains in position to slap down any notion of ‘joint authority’ as the nonsense it is, continued agitation for ‘special status’ for Northern Ireland in the EU risks undermining both governments approach to negotiations over the UK leaving the EU.  As the Irish Government has pointed out…


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  • Gopher

    Poor Mikes body is not even cold

  • 05OCT68

    I’m only spit balling as the yanks would say.

  • johnny lately

    It suits unionism ! Ask those Self employed British workers who the Tories shafted after publicly promising not to increase NI contributions. Unionism will be shafted too when it suits Britains interests just like they shafted every other country that has ever had the misfortune to be either one of their colonies or had dealings with them.

  • mickfealty

    Fair enough as far as it goes, but Cyprus is an unholy mess compared to what we have here, surely?

  • mickfealty

    Will rather than thought it is the problem.

  • Annie Breensson

    No need for unnecessary complications such as joint authority.

    Given that a border poll *may* alter the constitution of the UK, any border poll should extend to all areas of the kingdoms. That should settle the matter.

  • NotNowJohnny

    James Brokenshire may well claim all of Lough Foyle but he can’t regulate the taking of a single salmon in the Lough without the consent of the Irish government.

  • NotNowJohnny

    That may well be but that won’t be an issue if the two governments were regulating jointly in respect of other parts of Northern Ireland where there were no jurisdictional difficulties.

  • burnboilerburn

    I think in fairness most reasonable heads would suggest that it was Arlene’s battle cry to Unionism that shakes the sectarian bear.

  • burnboilerburn

    The problem is that there are some out there in the Unionist community who still believe that in the South we have no motorways, no electricity and we still all run to Mass with the rosary in our gobs. It suits them to spin the narrative that we are all raggy boys and girls. Sometime you just have to let them off to believe what they want.

  • Roger

    What say would the people of UKNI have over the joint authority government? How do they change the government…kick it out if they don’t like it etc.

  • 05OCT68

    All of Normandy FFS & the “English” King a Frenchman with no english.

  • 05OCT68

    Does the Queen own all the golf balls hit into the Foyle from Redcastle & Greencastle courses? I’ve tried to retrieve some of me lost balls, have broken any international laws?

  • Ciarán Doherty

    Just let the English vote on the border poll and NI will find itself swiftly booted from the union and all issues of Brexit will be solved for the north.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I think the short answer to your first question is yes. Prince Philip has been known to do a bit of deep sea diving in the area and this could explain it.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I’m afraid they couldn’t. Last Thursday was the day the people of ‘UKNI’ got their chance to change their government and they didn’t take it. Instead they effectively voted for an alternative to devolution, and as we all know from the period between 1169 and 1921 across the whole island and between 1972 and 1999 in NI, we don’t get the opportunity to kick these non devolved governments out. More of the same (but with a difference) old chap I fear, but there you go.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Why would SF be seen as the cause?

  • Tarlas

    His up coming Russian trip will be enlightening.

  • Neonlights

    I think that’s wishful thinking. The EU don’t give a singing duck about Northern Ireland. Once the UK exits, who is going to bargain for special status for us? It would be the ROI on its own trying to negotiate something with bleats about the Peace Process largely falling on deaf ears. You may as well have special status for Quebec.

  • Karl

    Why doesnt SF pay to respected pollsters to ask that very question to the english electorate?

    Surely the result and publicity would do them no harm

  • Roger

    “As we all know…”. Don’t agree at alll. UKNI gets the exact same opportunity to kick out a non- devolved government as every other part of the UK.

    So you seem to be saying an Irish government, completely unelected by UKNI population would, admittedly together with the elected UK government rule over UKNI. Insofar as Ireland’s role is concerned, wouldn’t UKNI then be its colony?

    Would UKNI need to be put on UN list of territories for decolonization?

    Can the Irish send a Governor or Joint Governor. What does the Government look like?

  • MalikHills

    “Prince Philip has been known to do a bit of deep sea diving in the area”

    In the area? You mean Muff diving?


    Thank you I’m here all week, you’ve been great folks, don’t forget to tip your waitress.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    that’s not how self-determination works I’m afraid

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Spot on. Also, we have to remember, the AIA was completely rejected by unionists and anything like it would be again – and that fell way short of joint authority, as you point out. It just wouldn’t get anywhere near the cross-community support the GFA has.

    Nationalism needs to be very careful with all this joint authority talk – it seems to be treating the GFA settlement now as no longer good enough for them.

    We have a historic cross-community deal and there’s a reason that is the deal – other proposals didn’t get agreement. It’s time nationalist parties lived up to it and stopped undermining the settlement.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Spot on from Emerson. Joint authority might sound reasonable in theory but in reality there is no cross-community support for it and it is practically unworkable, and will be all the more so after Brexit. Also, we don’t need another ‘solution’, we have the GFA.

  • noodles

    You say potato I say patatoe

  • grumpy oul man

    You like we should have a vote over the whole island for self determination and ine corner sets up a private army and force the goverment to overthrow the democratic decission.
    It would appear the self determination is a very flexible thing indeed.

  • tmitch57

    Sudan was jointly ruled by Egypt and the UK when Egypt was de facto a British colony, so it was a mere administrative arrangement. Andorra, Nauru and Vanuatu are so small that most people can’t locate them on a global map if they are even found on the map (in many cases Andorra is not).

  • runnymede

    I used to get annoyed about the ‘constructive ambiguity’ of the UK and Irish governments re. NI but reading this site has made me learn to love it.

    There is clearly a huge market for this kind of stuff among Republicans, whose fantasies about demographic determinism, secret deals and behind the scenes motivations decorate every comment thread.

    As this presumably contributes to them keeping away from their more traditional approaches to getting their way, it’s all good…

  • harmlessdrudge

    Thanks for that interjection. Despite having hit the buffers a few years ago the Irish economy is proving resilient and the gap in living standards between North and South is wide and getting wider. I admire the efforts of some to persuade our recalcitrant unionist neighbours but suspect that patience is the best strategy of all.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    The ‘imperialism’ of the EU is only in your mind – how exactly is this imperialism furthered by giving all the members a vote and a veto?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Empire’s are a thing of the past. Don’t join any.

  • Jeffrey Peel

    Newton, as usual, on the nail.

  • Roger

    That is the North of Ireland, bordering the UK.

  • Deeman

    But for how long?

  • eamoncorbett

    Have you tried keeping your head still, swinging slowly and following through.

  • eamoncorbett

    You might explain what tactics were used to wreck the AIA . But then again that’s history now .
    If the constitutional issue was declared a draw there might be a chance that Stormont would work.
    People might vote in larger numbers for parties that relied on policies and not the border .
    It just might give NI some status within the EU .
    Joint Authority might not bring about any of the above but had Unionists accepted the Council of Ireland all those years ago a lot of what followed might have been averted .
    The simple fact is that as things stand the GFA is coming under attack from sectarian unionism and resurgent republicanism.
    Other than introducing direct rule ,the British government is powerless in the present situation, it cannot compel the warring parties to get on with each other .
    After nearly 100 years of sole British rule that lets be totally honest here ,hasn’t worked , it’s surely time to experiment outside the remit of the GFA.

  • eamoncorbett

    You are correct in saying that , but it’s not all about funding, taking the border out of politics would free up all sorts of opportunities, it would allow bodies like the IDA to join forces with its Northern counterpart to attract sustainable industry to NI and it would free up Stormont to do what it should be doing , governing.

  • eamoncorbett

    If JA did come about Jerry would disappear stage left.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    What is it about the GFA you’ve changed your mind on?

  • chrisjones2

    The consequences apply both ways though. Around a million angry prods …yes …good idea

  • chrisjones2

    …and what if UNionist refuse to accept its authority? What then?

  • chrisjones2

    Its very simple. We have made it clear what bits are ours. If they have chosen to swim in those parts they are British

  • chrisjones2

    I love the co-option of Alliance as the new Republican party. I am sure that will play well fro Naomi in the coming election

  • chrisjones2

    Two sides one coin And they need each other as bogeyman

    So the main players need sectarianism…it is their entire strategy

  • chrisjones2

    Doh the choice is election or boycott ……….. and boycott forces direct rule

  • chrisjones2

    Far better to be run by competent, sectarianally impartial and relatively uncorrupt British Ministers than the lot we have traditionally elected …on both sides. Then we will see marriage reform, aboortion, a sensibel irish Language Act, sensible economic reform and, above all, the bloated and inefficient Health Service sorted out at last

  • chrisjones2

    They have no idea what GDP is ….its completely masked by tax scams!

    Unemployment in NI is actually lower at 5.3%

  • chrisjones2

    So faced with Brexit and the chance to grab jobs and investment that might formerly have gone to Ireland, the irish Foreign Minister will chose NI

    As we say in Belfast, do you think we came down the Lagan in a bubble

  • chrisjones2

    blunt arrows though that bounce off armour

  • chrisjones2

    There was a UN report around 5 years ago that said there was no hope of a settlement in Cyprus because the economic impact of the UN in the Island was so huge neither Government could afford to lose it

    Perhaps we are not so different

  • chrisjones2

    Sorry …cant do it. Its illegal under the act

    And by the way that restriction was inserted at the request of SF who wanted to be able to demand the SoS to call a poll safely knowing they would not get one as it would expose the shallowness of their base.

  • chrisjones2

    Aye…all those TDS in Cork Kerry Donegal and Dublin will vote for all the money to be spent in NI creating jobs fro Prods.

    Let me guess …your are a big fan of the Tooth Fairy and think that Peter Pan is a factual history

  • chrisjones2

    You seem very clear that the vote in the last election will traqnslate into a vote for unity. Past polls suggest a 60/40 split as about 30% of Catholics will vote to stay in the UK

  • chrisjones2

    ….tell that to an angy mob …….. either way

  • mickfealty

    Nice idea, but we’re hardly that much of a benefit centre. (Welcome back btw!)

  • chrisjones2

    Thank you but not sure how long I will stay as takes up too much time ! Some of this is much too juicy to miss though

  • Croiteir

    Why not – they have a democratic way of expressing their anger, or negotiating to minimise it if they wish. But no – the people of all duck or no dinner.

  • Roger

    …in principle the same as what happened to those who didn’t accept Stormont/Westminster authority….they could be ignored if the states so determine.

    but, it’s not even a question of just unionists; why would a Fine Gael sent UKNI Governor be acceptable to SF and SDLP voters in UKNI? The whole thing is a joke.