Redeeming ‘North-Southery’ from Complacency

Complacency about the peace, about power-sharing, about cross-border cooperation, about, even, EU membership has allowed the unthinkable to happen. Such things that we have cherished and, indeed, brandished around the world as a sign of success have become playthings, tossed lightly up in the air in acts of outrageous political hubris. One after the other is falling to the ground and suddenly not only the future but the very present is characterised by uncertainty and instability.

How can it be, now, that we find ourselves expected to take some solace from Prime Minister May’s assurance that there should be ‘No return to the borders of the past’?

I would argue that the biggest question we should be asking now is not how to preserve the integration and cooperation achieved, but rather: why is it that we do not have more? Similar regions in the EU would have far greater comparative levels of integration, cross-border movement, workers, and trade. It is clear, here, that the legacy of the hard border lives on. This is a legacy not only of the conflict but of decades of ‘back to back’ development that forged the dominant and divergent trajectories of policymaking north and south.

There is, thus, a striking paradox in the experience of the contemporary border which makes it difficult to explain to the array of outsiders now curious about this case. In a way, the border doesn’t exist, most people don’t think about crossing it. Yet at the same time the border is ever present; it is a lingering strain.

In order to avoid provoking resentment or unrest in other parts of the EU (or even the UK), the ‘flexible and imaginative solutions’ that are being sought for the Irish border will have to be premised, first and foremost, on their connection to peace. A focus on such ‘unique circumstances’ for Northern Ireland means that we are propelled towards the Good Friday Agreement, as providing a more solid rationale for ‘special’ treatment than talk of psychological barriers or paramilitary threats.

But the formal structures of the Agreement do not, in and of themselves, hold enough for securing deep cooperation. Instead, the most steady and innovative progress has depended on the capacity of (usually) individuals and small organisations to identify areas of mutual interest, and on their courage to build upon them.

The stark reality facing us now is that we have shown far too little interest, far too little capacity and far too little courage to forge initiatives in such number and strength as would be needed to navigate the unknown waters of Brexit intact. The archives of the Centre for Cross Border Studies (CCBS) are full of fantastic reports about opportunities just waiting to be developed.

Michael D’Arcy’s 2012 report Opportunities in North/South Public Service Provision is an excellent example of this. It identified ten key opportunities to begin cooperative public service projects that would be likely to deliver positive results for citizens of the whole island within 10 years. These included:

• a joint plan to support employment and economic growth, particularly targeting marginalised communities in both jurisdictions.
• an all-island Single Energy Market (taking full advantage of renewable sources)
• all-island tourism infrastructure
• and combining resources of third level institutions for high quality courses and knowledge centres.

If these had been taken up at the time, we would already be half way through to reaping benefits across the island. Instead, we continued to rely on EU funding, which itself is on occasion vulnerable to the willingness of either government to dedicate the necessary contributions.

Undeterred, CCBS is still presenting fresh ideas for stimulating and supporting cooperation. One such model is the North-South Social Innovation Network. This Network centres on a common understanding of the need to develop the potential of cross-border cooperation in various sectors (e.g. health, education, justice, culture and the economy), finding collaborative solutions for common social needs. Could we imagine a more positive model for planning future north-south relations?

Now is the time for such imagination, and for choices. Do we set out the bottom line and trust that the tug of war between Sinn Féin and the DUP, pulling in opposite directions, will create some sort of equilibrium? Tension can be productive after all. But what if the rope of devolution, or subsidies, or ceasefires became precariously frayed and both parties end up sprawled on the floor?

Alternatively, is it possible to use the spectre of Brexit to focus minds on our mutual interests, and to set out what we would like to see in the future. This has to be more than avoiding a hard border, or even preserving what we already have. We can easily lay our hands on a wishlist of missed opportunities, untapped connections, under-developed ideas. It could be the only means of trying to formalise a fabric of cooperation that has otherwise largely depended on the types of contacts and networks that are all too vulnerable to disruptive forces, be they in the guise of customs controls or resurgent paramilitarism.

These omissions and aversions have occurred along all three strands of the Agreement. Our imaginative solutions must be equally complex and multi-layered. They must also entail a renewed commitment to the Agreement by all parties and both governments, as a vital foundation.

Ultimately, all our visions of the future must converge on our common commitment to peace. Not because we are frightened of what paramilitaries may do, but because we recognise that – regardless of what we think of them – we are stuck with our next door neighbours. Cooperation among us is the foundation for peace; necessary peace, ordinary peace. This is a peace that can be destroyed – we know now – not just by violence but by our own complacency.

A version of this paper was delivered at the MacGill Summer School, Glenties, on 19 July 2017, in a panel on ‘Planning for the Future’.

  • Hawk

    The hard border that existed in the past was largely a result of the Troubles. The few custom posts that did exist prior to 1973 were not the cause of the fighting rather a symbol of what they were fighting for. Nobody was under any illusion that sovereignty was the real issue.

    We should stop providing excuses for those who might want to break the peace. A border check at customs posts although undesirable is a minor inconvenience and is not justification for murder. The breaking of the peace is less of a political question and more of a moral one. If a persons morality is such, that they believe they have the right to take another’s person life because of having to go through customs, then that person deserves jail.

    We all want the softest border possible, that’s obvious, however we need to stop pandering to those would be breakers the peace. Jail is the answer for them and the vast majority of people on the country would agree.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Can you provide some insight to the type of border controls that were in place prior to the troubles so we can make up our own minds whether it would be considered hard or soft. For example, could you use any border road, approved or otherwise, to bring back your shopping? Could you cross the border at any time of the day of night with goods in the car? Did a motorist in the north require any sort of permit to drive across the border?

  • Nevin

    “But the formal structures of the Agreement do not, in and of themselves, hold enough for securing deep cooperation.”

    There are three strands to the Agreement so this obsession with Strand 2 IMO is a clear breach of the letter and spirit of the Agreement. It’s also counter-productive because it only encourages the electorate to vote for the political heavyweights on either end of the tug-of-war rope:

    We pledge that we will, in good faith, work to ensure the success of each and every one of the arrangements to be established under this agreement. It is accepted that all of the institutional and constitutional arrangements – an Assembly in Northern Ireland, a North/South Ministerial Council, implementation bodies, a British-Irish Council and a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and any amendments to British Acts of Parliament and the Constitution of Ireland – are interlocking and interdependent and that in particular the functioning of the Assembly and the North/South Council are so closely inter-related that the success of each depends on that of the other

  • Hawk

    That’s really got nothing to do with the point I was making.

    If take issue with my use of ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ then feel free to insert whatever adjective you deem appropriate.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I don’t take issue with your use of the word hard or soft. I’m merely inviting you to support your claim that the [only] hard border that existed in the past was largely a result of the troubles. This strongly implies that prior to the troubles there was something other than a hard border, perhaps what might now be referred to as a ‘soft’ border or a ‘frictionless’ border, but certainly nothing more than a ‘minor inconvenience’. I’m trying to figure out what the state of the border pre-troubles really was and therefore whether a return to something like it is really something to be exercised about. I’m only assuming you know what it was like because you made a pretty definitive statement about it.

  • eamoncorbett

    According to Theresa May from the comfort of her sun lounge today , freedom of movement for EU citizens ends in 2019 , assuming that this will not affect this island , it will be fascinating to figure out how for example people who travel from the the EU to the Republic can be stopped going to NI and onward from Larne to Carnryan without showing papers . There’s going to be a border somewhere.
    How will they differentiate between a resident EU citizen and a non resident EU citizen whilst in transit.
    Ultimately if NI becomes an obstacle to Brexit and it now looks as if it will , what is its future in the U.K. What is the future of the GFA .
    Brexit is the brainchild of a minority of the Tory party , a case of the tail wagging the dog . It would now seem apparent that the island of Ireland will be the pawn in this vicious game of chess between the UK and the EU. If Corbyn became PM there would be compromise on free movement but not on the decision to leave the EU simply because he doesn’t accept the competition laws that would limit nationalisation.

  • ulidian

    Said individuals will be able to travel where they please. What non resident EU citizens presumably won’t be able to do (at least legally) is stay in the UK and settle/start working, unless they have a suitable permit.

  • eamoncorbett

    Freedom of movement will mean just that , freedom of movement, only someone coming on holidays from Europe will be allowed temporary stay otherwise what would be the point if everyone could stay but not work . Only people with close relatives will get work permits.
    Unless there are checks at ports and airports in GB , EU citizens will be able to travel by ferry from this island to GB unhindered.

  • Hawk

    Again this comes down to what you consider a hard or soft border.

    Each of us individually will have our own subjective interpretation of what ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ means. Most people would probably agree that a Berlin Wall type border resembles the hardest, the border we have enjoyed the past 20 in Ireland the softest, with varying degrees of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ depending on custom posts and military presence in between.

    A discussion about what constitutes and ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ border was not really the point I was making. I’m happy for you to apply whatever terms you feel comfortable with.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I wasn’t intending to get into that debate. The point I am putting to you is that prior to the troubles there was (what most people would now deem to be) a hard border. Of course you can define hard border as something else (a Berlin Wall) and then claim that there wasn’t a hard border. However, Irrespective of what you call it, I would suggest that the imposition of the type of border that existed pre troubles would be completely unacceptable from a nationalist post GFA perspective today.

  • Hawk

    Unacceptable to what degree? That it makes it OK to murder someone?

  • Georgie Best

    We should stop providing excuses for those who might want to break the peace and stop pretending that what May et al are trying to do is acceptable. Those who favour peace in NI must stand united against these people.

  • Georgie Best

    The majority of unionists voted for the pro Brexit DUP, you cannot say that they do not want as much disruption as possible.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I’m not quite sure how (or indeed why) you jumped from unacceptable to murdering people. It seems peculiar to say the least. I found the service in my local Italian restaurant at the weekend completely unacceptable but I have to confess that the idea of murdering the waiter never crossed my mind. Do you think murdering people could ever be an appropriate response?

    I’m happy to take your word for it regarding the vast majority of unionists. However when I asked you for information to support a previous claim you made here you didn’t provide it. I am aware that the majority of unionists vote for the DUP and that one of its 10 MPs currently propping up the government threatened this week to impose the hardest border possible. Another member of the DUP said recently that he wanted Brexit at ANY cost. Meanwhile my DUP supporting neighbour said to me that he looked forward to a ‘return of the good old days of the border’. If the vast majority of unionists really want a soft border then I would suggest they need to start making this clear to the DUP as at present the government’s policy seems to be on course to deliver a hard border. Of course I’m open to be persuaded to the contrary.

  • Hawk

    Maybe you should read the DUP’s manifesto before making such a claim. From BBC reality check series published on June 6th 2017:

    Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)

    The DUP is in favour of Northern Ireland leaving the EU but says that Brexit does not mean “leaving Europe”.
    It adds that it will prioritise maintaining the CTA between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

    – frictionless border with the Irish Republic; assisting those working or travelling in the other jurisdiction
    – Northern Ireland established as a hub for trade from the Irish Republic into the broader UK market
    comprehensive free trade and customs agreement with the EU
    – arrangements to facilitate ease of movement of people, goods and services

  • Hawk

    Does a border with custom posts justify murder?

  • Georgie Best

    Does posturing about blue passports justify ending a hard won peace in NI?

  • Hawk

    I don’t even understand your question.

    My question is simple and you have avoided answering it. Does a customs post justify murder?

  • Georgie Best

    This is just political lies, if anyone did not want disruption then they would simply stay in the EU. This particular issue has been accompanied by even more lies than any other event. .

  • Georgie Best

    Your contention is that we will do what we like, you cannot do anything about it as we will only listen if you murder someone. A quite repellent political philosophy.

  • Hawk

    I’ve got news for you – it’s not political lies.

    I don’t know ONE Brexit voting Unionist who wants to return to borders of the past.

    It’s probably easier for you to caricature all Brexit supporting Unionists disruptive liars than deal with the complex reality.

  • Hawk

    That’s not at all my point. I’m asking your a simple question.

    If the political outcome of leaving the EU is customs posts, despite best efforts, does it justify murder?

    I have now asked you three times, on each of the two previous times you have ignored the question.

  • mac tire

    What’s with all this justifying murder crap? Who is murdering who over customs posts?
    This is a fallacy from you to cover up your lack of knowledge about what type of border will be in operation in 2019. Now, give us details of this border – facts, not “no return to borders of the past” soundbites.

    You have all had over a year to tell us. Four months after Article 50. We would like details now, not fluffy expressions that got past the hard questions 13 months ago.
    If you don’t know just admit that.

  • Hawk

    That’s the contention when people say a ‘hard’ border is risking peace is it not?

    To break peace means to go back to war, to go to war means to murder. Does it not?

    I agree with you, who on earth would go to war over customs posts? Who on earth could JUSTIFY murder over custom posts?

    The answer is nobody in their right mind.

  • Georgie Best

    Nobody will murder anyone over a customs post. But a crowd may tear one down. The British will then send armed men to support their evil plans and they will murder someone. That’s how the last troubles started.

  • Georgie Best

    If you voted for Brexit or the DUP then you are voting for disruption of trade and trade over the border and of the lives of the people who live there. That this disruption is not quite the same as in the past is no defence for your actions. You are voting against peace in NI.

  • Hawk

    If nobody will be murdered over some customs posts can we all stop talking about going back to war?

    According to Newton Emerson the British government have said they will not be setting up custom posts on the border, but the Republic might have to. Under such circumstance it would be the Irish government sending armed men.

  • Hawk

    If you voted for Brexit you voted to leave the EU. You can vote for Brexit AND still hope for free trade and no border. It’s not binary.

    Nobody is voting against peace, you said as much above.

  • Georgie Best

    The Republic is a legitimate government, so the situation is different.

    However in general if politics is devalued and shown not to work then some people will seek non political means.

  • Georgie Best

    The EU provides the gold standard for integrating economies. You support leaving this and bringing in a border more substantial than any in western Europe, or indeed most of eastern Europe. Such a deliberate act of vandalism is in no way compatible with the spirit of political agreement that has improved things so much in the last two decades.

  • Hawk

    The UK s a legitimate government, its legitimacy is enshrined in the GFA agreement which the nationalists population overwhelmingly voted in favour of.

    The GFA was also voted for by the Republic of Ireland, it retracted it claims to the territory of Northern Ireland and agreed that Northern Ireland was a legitimate member of the UK for as long as the majority of the people wished.

    According to recent opinion polls, the support for membership of the UK is stronger than the support for membership of the UK in Scotland.

    In every respect today, NI’s position within the UK is legitimate. Nobody cares about your personal subjective opinion on what is legitimate.

  • Georgie Best

    The GFA provided NI with a measure of legitimacy as it established a principle of consensus and representing the interests of both communities. However, you are proposing to make trade and travel on the border more difficult against the wishes of people in both parts of Ireland, so you are dumping the GFA and the legitimacy that it conferred on NI.

  • Hawk

    The gold standard for integrating economies? Lol.

    That’s a ridiculous thing to say. Ask the people of Greece if they agree with that. Ask those nations which have suffered as a result of using the Euro because the exchange rate doesn’t suit their economy.

    Leaving the EU is entirely within the law. This was settled in the Supreme Court. The spirit of the law is another way of saying ‘I don’t like’. The reason why we have legislation, agreements, and courts to judge them is to bind parties to the standard AS WRITTEN. What you think the law should be doesn’t matter, the law is as written.

  • Hawk

    The GFA speaks only to the membership of NI to the UK.

    As a full member of the UK we are bound by rules of membership; if the UK leaves the EU we have to as well.

    If we don’t like that we must first leave the UK.

  • Georgie Best

    This is a political, not a legal forum. Legal trickery does not convey political acceptance.

  • Georgie Best

    That’s the best idea you’ve had.

  • Hawk

    Political acceptance of the GFA by referendum was a legal endorsement. Some of the things you are saying don’t make any sense.

  • Damien Mullan

    So the UK referendum result of 2016 trumps the referendum result of 1998, which was voted for on both sides of the border and had implications in relation to constitutional claims and the rest. Is that what you are suggesting. The GFA is a binding international agreement, there will be hell to pay if the UK unilaterally tears that up. That is why the UK government is at sixes and sevens presently. As for borders, and customs posts and violence, don’t give us this fairy-tale that borders are meaningless. Borders are the very expression of ‘them’ and ‘us’, but you see a major problem for NI is that over 42% of the population doesn’t see, ‘them’, as ‘them’, they see ‘them’ as ‘us’.

  • Georgie Best

    Leaving the EU was not discussed during the GFA, it did not regulate it because people did not think it necessary. Consequently, further discussion and consensus is needed on this matter as it was not discussed then. Every effort has been made to prevent this discussion but rather the right wing elements in England and the DUP are trying to bulldoze things through.

  • Hawk

    The Supreme Court of the UK passed a ruling in January this year relating to Brexit, Northern Ireland and the GFA (called Belfast Agreement by the court) which you can find here:

    They ruled unanimously that there was no conflict between the UK leaving the EU and the provisions of the GFA and the NI Act.

    That case is closed. Your question shows that you either you don’t understand the legality of the situation, or haven’t bothered to take the time to understand it.

  • Damien Mullan

    That’s not shared by either the Irish state or the EU Commission. You are well aware that the Supreme Court noted its own limitations as regards interpreting international treaty obligations. Perhaps you ought to found your condescension on something more solid from here on out.

    “More detailed discussions are needed on how Brexit will affect the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland, according to the EU’s chief negotiator.

    Michel Barnier also said more work needs to be done to protect cross-Irish border co-operation “in particular”.

    He was speaking at the end of the second week of Brexit negotiations with the UK in Brussels on Thursday.

    He described north-south co-operation in Ireland as being “embedded in the common framework of EU law”.

    Mr Barnier added that the EU needs to better understand how the UK intends to ensure the continuation of this co-operation.

    North-south relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland forms strand two of the Good Friday Agreement, the 1998 deal that agreed a framework for how Northern Ireland should be governed.

    Stand two is overseen by the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC).

  • mac tire

    “That’s the contention when people say a ‘hard’ border is risking peace is it not? To break peace means to go back to war…”

    No. It could cause destabilisation and not necessarily conflict in the form of war or murder. That destabilsation could take political, economic or social forms. It may mean the polarisation and isolation of communities even more than they are now.

    It could lead to passive resistance or to social unrest at border posts. But does not have to mean war.

    You haven’t told us about the facts of what will be there and how it will all work yet, despite Britain having plenty of time to come up with answers. My point here is that you have no idea yet and are trying to sell half baked ideas to the rest of us that finally want some meat on the bones.

    Please excuse my desire to get answers as I live in one of those areas most likely to be negatively affected. It’s just that you seem to know an awful lot about what will happen and how easy it will be when everyone else involved seems to be scratching their heads.

  • tmitch57

    The referendums in 1998 and in 2016 were on different questions, different issues. Nowhere in the body of the GFA is membership in the EU even mentioned. Remember the agreement of Sunningdale where Dublin recognized that Northern Ireland was de facto part of the UK was the same year or possibly a year after both Britain and Ireland entered the EEC together.

  • tmitch57

    The only people who are voting against peace are those who continually threaten war if they don’t get what they want.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Tell me, how will leaving the Eu, the single market and the customs union lead to free trade and no border? How will that work? How can that be delivered while ensuring the uk is no longer subject to Eu law nor the ECJ? I put it to you that it is binary but am happy for you to convince me otherwise.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “there will be hell to pay if the UK unilaterally tears that up” What is the hell to pay ? What will it be like ?

  • The Irishman

    Who has threatened war?

  • T.E.Lawrence
  • Barneyt

    Any pessimism out there is not necessarily reflective of any support for violent deeds, nor does it pander, condone or offer excuse. Much of it is about reality and how a more visible border will pronounce the countries division ( which is the foremost cause of previous and more modem day troubles) and how it will embolden sf republican opponents and justify their claim that sf would achieve nothing. I see it as a recognition of a reality that might unfold.

  • Barneyt

    That’s quite a loaded and mischievous comment I’m afraid. Sprouts make my child sick, so you’re telling me they should not be banned. So you hate children? You get my point

  • J Vance

    irredentist irish republicans never needed much justification for their butchery…

  • J Vance

    if the soapdodgers don’t vandalise public property, maybe then they won’t eat lead from HRM’s finest, hmmm?

  • J Vance

    the free state barely has even a single company of light infantry available.
    All of their so called ‘soldiers’ are more like chief Wiggum/Sgy Bilko types, used to cash in transit escorts, or faffing about on UN funded holidays.

    I spoke to some Israeli colleagues previously and they related to me how the republic’s troops were considered a standing joke by all sides in the middle east.

  • Sean Danaher

    I think prosperity in the border region is important, if you live in the NI heartland such as Belfast, Antrim or North Down less so. Similarly in the Republic, outside Ulster and Louth there will be minimal effect from a hard border. As for Britain ( currently live in Northumberland) there are many more important Brexit issues and left to the UK the border would not be a priority.

    My concern is for the border region on both sides to do well. I’m not sure what the overall form of Brexit will take; there are such mixed messages from Hammond, May, Gove, Fox, Rudd etc. it is impossible to know at this stage.

    I am great believer in prosperity bringing peace. There are many worries and I see headlines such as “Brexit barriers would ruin Northern Ireland dairy farms, MPs told”

    There are similar issues in many other sectors. One minor
    example is that when I was at Bushmills Distillery at Easter I discovered all the malted barley came from Middleton C. Cork.

    Border cooperation needs to increase as the border region in both jurisdictions are amongst the poorest parts of the island of Ireland

  • Oriel27

    Sean and you chastise me for challenging the ignorance of ‘the keep’ who blatantly wants to stir things up, who obviously doesn’t live near the border and yet cant make a decent argument for a hard border?

    Anyway, as Fionnula O Connor says in the Irish News today, people along the border will do their own thing regarding the border anyway, irrespective of what London, Dublin or Brussels decide.
    I have found myself getting hot and bothered on this site worrying about brexit and its effects on my daily travels across the border – whats the point.
    There are at least 5 roads/lanes i can go across the border when going to work. I know the lay of the land well.
    As people in North Monaghan always done, they got on with it, its not as if people will automatically comply with the law on a daily basis.
    Will they hell – i’l continue to do my shopping, my business what ever it is on a daily basis, irrespective of customs, guards, PSNI, etc
    All through my youth (i live within site of border), people both sides never really complied with law regarding – the small things like shopping etc.

  • Sean Danaher

    Hi Oriel27
    no offence meant. I can completely understand your frustration and find some of the hard-line Unionists difficult to cope with. My father had a term “Invincible Ignorance” but I make a point of not decending to their level.

  • Oriel27

    Hi Sean, fully agreed. Yes i should not descend to their level, its a great site this and i know displays of ignorance on my behalf can ruin the reputation of the site.

  • Georgie Best

    The GFA did not change the fact that NI was part of the UK, but it did envisage a new concern for both communities in how the UK governed NI. It is bizarre to claim that this is not the case, and equally bizarre to claim that anything not actually spelt out in the GFA can be proceeded with without a measure of agreement.

    The GFA was supposed to be a start of a new process of agreement and it set out specific conclusions of that process of agreement in relation to specific matters. It did not pretend to address all matters and it did not address the question of leaving the EU, so this matter has now to be discussed to achieve agreement.

  • Damien Mullan

    You think I meant a resort to violence. Didn’t you.

    Civil disobedience I think ought to be sufficient. Mass protest, but as the case was in the 1960’s, will the state forces then resort to violence. Let us not forget, who introduce violence to crush the civil rights movement, well before the establishment of the Provisional IRA.

    What will be your response to civil disobedience and mass protest? Given I answered your question.

  • mac tire

    Fair play, keep it up, old chap. On this evidence you’ll be promoted from keyboard warrior to a real one soon.

  • ted hagan

    Surely you can see that a hardening of the border breaches the spirit of the Belfast Agreement, enforces greater division and heightens tension, as did the establishment of the border, which only came about through murder and the threat of murder?

  • Damien Mullan

    “The referendums in 1998 and in 2016 were on different questions, different issues.”

    Stating the blindingly obvious. And making no point too boot.

    “Nowhere in the body of the GFA is membership in the EU even mentioned.”

    Because it was taken as granted that both the UK and Ireland were members. It wasn’t necessary for the GFA to state the bleeding obvious.

    “Remember the agreement of Sunningdale where Dublin recognized that Northern Ireland was de facto part of the UK was the same year or possibly a year after both Britain and Ireland entered the EEC together.”

    How did that work out, Sunningdale. Stunning success was it. Sighting a failed agreement in the context of EU or non-EU membership is irrelevant and pointless. It’s failure should be sufficient enough to confirm that.

  • tmitch57

    What is not mentioned in a legal treaty and is not part of accepted international custom is irrelevant.

    I mentioned Sunningdale because of Seamus Mallon’s famous remark that “the GFA was Sunningdale for slow learners.” What was relevant and necessary was not that both Ireland and the UK were members of a larger European body, but that Ireland was willing to finally recognize–albeit only on a de facto basis–that Northern Ireland was not part of its territory.

  • tmitch57

    I agree that Brexit should be discussed again once the terms are known and a second referendum should be held. This, however is different from giving the citizens of NI a veto on the issue over the entire UK–the tail should not wag the dog.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Dangerous game bringing people onto streets for any civil disobedience have yet to see it ever being controlled only hijacked by more violent people for their own political agenda. Hope you can control such disobedience and don’t wash your hands from the issue once people have to pay back rent rate fines or go to prison

  • Damien Mullan

    You rightly highlight the sovereign democratic nature of NI and its position within the UK, qualified by the principle of self-determination contained within the GFA. Part and parcel of that democracy is the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. It is not a democracy without those essential rights. Did civil disobedience not reverse the poll tax in the UK, did it not change government course in ROI over water charges and pensioner benefit cuts, has it not brought about a change in the leadership of Kensington council. Democracy does not mean that people meekly take what’s dished out, it must be balanced against the rights of people to register their opposition in a non-violent but proactive fashion.

  • eamoncorbett

    At least they don’t drop bombs from 40000 ft. and kill innocent children in Iraq , Afghanistan and Libya. You can get the official figures from the UN , the same organisation that sends peace keeping troops to the Golan heights , oh and as for the Israelis , plenty of war criminals knocking about there too , well protected though .

  • Damien Mullan

    “What is not mentioned in a legal treaty and is not part of accepted international custom is irrelevant.”

    Well no EU Treaty before the Lisbon Treaty ever outlined a means by which a country or territory could withdraw from the EU or its predecessors, yet Greenland did in 1985. Was UKIP’s and a sizable constituency within the Tory Party’s aspiration for withdrawing from the EU irrelevant ,up-to and until the enactment of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. Was the UK electorate who voted for UKIP in the 1990’s and 2000’s duped, by voting for a political aspiration that couldn’t possibly be fulfilled, because it had not been outlined in the treaties prior to 2009.

    Of course the UK could have withdrawn before 2009. Although it was not outlined, it is rationally deduced from the fact that the UK is a sovereign independent state, that it could have chosen to withdraw. Similarly, it is deduced that the commitments the UK entered into in 1998 within the GFA, were on the basis of a bilateral agreement between two states that are members of the EU.

    “the GFA was Sunningdale for slow learners”

    The “slow learners” were not the Irish government per se, as the British government were equally “slow” in respects, but primarily loyalists who refused to accept cross-community power sharing and who thus engaged in the Ulster Workers Council strike which brought about the demise of the Sunningdale agreement, aided by Republican and Loyalist paramilitary violence.

  • Trasna

    Yes, is that the answer you are looking for?

    We’re back to the old and tired British thinking. We can do what we like to the Irish and then question the reaction if it ends in violence.

    Grow upl

  • Georgie Best

    If politics is prevented from working, then people will go on the streets. There is no need for civil disobedience if there is proper consultation about any changes proposed.

  • Sean Danaher

    Another video today from Prof Michael Dougan (Liverpool). Well worth watching

  • Oggins

    Now factor in the economic trade and movement of people for work, holidays and general day to day life. As someone who crosses the border 3/4 a week, I hope someone tells me what it will mean and look like. The scary thing is, we still haven’t no ideas.

  • George

    “All of their so called ‘soldiers’ are more like chief Wiggum/Sgt Bilko types, their most arduous tasks being cash in transit escorts, or faffing about on UN funded holidays.”

    Tell that to the 200+ Irish soldiers who have died on duty with the UN.

  • Damien Mullan

    Such hubris when there still smolders the wreckage of two lost wars.

    Why take my word when The Telegraph’s own Peter Oborne so vividly illustrates British impotence.

    “It may very well be that historians will look back on Helmand and conclude that it marked the moment when Britain’s ability to act as a global military power came to an end.”

  • tmitch57

    I believe that Mallon intended the remark to refer to most of the political parties/movements that weren’t part of the power-sharing Executive of 1974: both the UUP and the DUP, the various loyalist terrorist groups, the Provos and by extension Sinn Fein. If he were really being honest he could have meant Dublin as well for insisting on the vague Council of Ireland that people in his own party talked up and became a boogey man for the loyalists and unionists.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    That is a very sad figure off soldiers who are only there in a peace keeping role across the worlds conflicts. May be worth while the RoI Government giving consideration to a memorial monument in Dublin for such sacrifice ?

  • Rónán Kernan

    We have had a Single Electricity Market since 2007 – it works rather well

  • Kevin Breslin

    There are three strands to the Agreement so this obsession with Strand 2 IMO is a clear breach of the letter and spirit of the Agreement. It’s also counter-productive because it only encourages the electorate to vote for the political heavyweights on either end of the tug-of-war rope:

    Nevin, Nevin, Nevin … co-operating with the Republic of Ireland as part of Northern Ireland in Strand Two or as on the whole part of the United Kingdom in Strand Three, are not contradictory.

    Even McNarry’s UKIPers wanted more Euro spending Southerners to cross the border, we cannot deny our geography.

    Anyway, the Republic of Ireland gets by with the United Kingdom alright despite not being in a full political union with it, perhaps Brexiteers and Unionists could look to the South to see why.

  • Nevin

    Ahern’s appeasement of paramilitarism before the ink on the 1998 Agreement was even dry did huge damage to the UUP and SDLP.

    Perhaps if more effort had been put into Strand 3 Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff might have had a moderating influence on both London and Dublin.

    Irredentist Irish nationalism continues to be a block to good neighbourliness on the island of Ireland. The language of Varadkar, Coveney and Richmond suggests that we are either in the silly season or the Irish government might be going for a snap election.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Belfast as a Moderating Influence? LOL!

    Also there’s nothing irredentist about not putting customs controls on your own side of the border.

    If there was any irridentism it was the demands placed upon the Republic of Ireland to adhere to a Westminster controlled customs union with the United Kingdom, as a price for an open border.

    Brexit means trade barriers … the UK has to be the one to mitigate them. They’re leaving the Irish, the Irish have no plans to move.

  • Nevin

    I said Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff. It was my impression that The Executive Office was playing a moderating role before the PRM Army Council pulled the plug by pulling its political wing out of office.

    The height of the barriers is likely to be set by the EU big beasts so maybe it’s not surprising that Irish ministers are currently losing the run of themselves – in technical jargon, ‘bricking it’.

  • Damien Mullan

    “If he were really being honest he could have meant Dublin as well for insisting on the vague Council of Ireland”

    The hostility towards Dublin from unionism was already well prevalent before Sunningdale and the All-Ireland dimensions suggested within Sunningdale. After all, the mere thawing of relations between Belfast and Dublin were sufficient enough to bring about the demise of Terence O’Neill’s premiership, just bilateral day long visits were enough to get unionism into a tizzy.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Who on earth do you think The Executive Office were actually moderating?

    Were you watching the same election as I was … both parties were in heavy polarisation mood!

    And What on earth do you think Edinburgh and Cardiff were doing to calm down the British/English in Westminster, weren’t Jones and Sturgeon going to get Enda Kenny to speak up for them at the European Table?

    The only group that has done any moderation here have been in The Republic of Ireland as far as I can tell.

    What annoys Brexiteers is that the Irish have refused to be English, but it annoys the DUP too, who refuse to be English on abortion, same sex marriage, water rates, university fees, air passenger duty etc. etc.

    What has upset the Brexiteers is that the Republic of Ireland have refused to be doormats for the unpopular practical side to Brexit.

    I mean after years of blaming European Union for everything, an Irish government taking responsibility for British customs moderation would be open to all kinds of Hibernophobia.

    The DUP want to leave the Customs Union, they cannot say they do not want separate rules from the Republic of Ireland whether or not the Republic of Ireland is inside the European Union or not.

    The Republic of Ireland is an island that can find ways of means to protect the internal market of their 26 European Union trading partners, despite Brexiteer/DUP hostility to their independence and sovereignty.

    No one in The Republic of Ireland has voted to surrender their customs controls to the Westminster government, which ultimately is the optimal solution for Brexiteers, undermining the sovereignty of another nation.

    All Leo’s comments said was “Brexiteers, get your sovereignty in order!, We’re not putting up barriers with rest of Europe just so you can run away from your responsibilities to keep your own house in order.”

    The Brexiteers have NO Answers, just smug comments … they won’t be so smug when it crumbles apart like china in their hands.

    There’s simply no reason that the Irish should be doormats for British and Ulster supremacists.

  • Nevin

    You must have missed this August 2016 TEO letter [pdf file]. The incendiary nature of the BBC NI Spotlight RHI programme at the beginning of December propelled SF into panic mode.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Who on earth do you think The Executive Office were actually moderating?

    Absolutely No Moderation from the Brexiteers resulted. That letter may as well be toilet paper for Boris Johnson.

    Not one of these concerns have been addressed by either the British government or the Democratic Unionists.

    This rubbish written by the DUP that the Conservatives and their ilk are determined to ensure that there is no loss of trade cross border

    Not one bit of effort has really been made

    There has been NO DETERMINATION to make sure customs and freight are tackled either here in NI nor in their own ports.

    Leo Varadkar gave the game away … the UK is totally unprepared and is making no efforts to prepare

    The Guardian gave the game away …
    … the UK is totally unprepared and is making no efforts to prepare

    As did the Financial Times …
    … the UK is totally unprepared and is making no efforts to prepare

    The Independent ….
    … the UK is totally unprepared and is making no efforts to prepare

    How many sources do you need …

    Charlie Elphicke, A Tory Brexiteer is also making noises that the Brits are behind schedule on this in a pro-Brexit newspaper…

    This points to the fact that the UK is totally unprepared and is making no efforts to prepare.

    What happens if the Republic of Ireland do nothing here … they get fined for fraud, but sure the Brits were doing that anyway.

    On a cost-benefit analysis … The UK should be the ones Bricking This

    It would cost £32 billion a year if customs taxes weren’t collected …
    How much is Northern Ireland worth annually, even adding the DUP not as much as that?

    I kind of knew you’d bring up the letter … so what, Arlene Foster can either type or dictate something to a typist … assuming she’s done anything on this at all.

    Not one person in the DUP will take any responsibility!

    But then the DUP is totally irresponsible and is making no efforts to be responsible.

    What HELP did they think Fine Gael lead Irish government was going to give them?

    Be some helpless “Remoaner” EU patsy who’d crawl back to the teats of Mother England to help fend off nasty (yet military allies) within Europe?

    The DUP need to lose the Hibernophobia and the Europhobia and the jingo juice and deal with the practicalities.

  • tmitch57

    Thankfully both Dublin and the SDLP learned from Sunningdale and the North-South body created had very defined duties and powers. And the loyalists and the UUP learned and did not automatically denounce power sharing or North-South. The Shinners and the DUPers have proved to be a little bit slower, or perhaps simply more opportunistic with a different agenda(s), and have found it convenient to blame all problems on the other side.