Relationships: The Bridge between Principles & Practicalities

“We are committed to partnership, equality and mutual respect as the basis of relationships within Northern Ireland, between North and South and between these islands”

– Belfast / Good Friday Agreement 1998

Last month, I had the immense honour of speaking at the international youth conference One Young World: 1500 young leaders from 196 countries meeting in Bogota, Colombia to explore how we collectively resolve some of the greatest global challenges.

Despite the many complexities we continue to face in Northern Ireland to complete our peace process and move towards reconciliation, I was proud to represent the place I call home and share a message of hope.

The theme of my speech was about the importance of relationships and how this generation must continue the difficult work of building a bridge between peace and prosperity for all.

The importance of relationships is a lesson well learned through my time at the Centre for Democracy & Peace Building. My Chairman, Lord Alderdice, has often reminded me that the peace process was and continues to be about addressing the deeply disturbed relationships between communities in Northern Ireland, on the island of Ireland and across these islands.

The Belfast / Good Friday Agreement 1998 was about finding ways to build relationships and the ‘three strands’ of the Agreement reflect this.

As we approach the 20th anniversary of this historic agreement, it is worth noting that many political scientists believed in the early 1990’s that the conflict was so intractable in Northern Ireland, the principles so divided, that no resolution was possible.

The success of the Agreement was to focus on the importance of building relationships and in focusing on practicalities.

In November 2015, our Centre launched EU Debate NI to provide a space for informed debate on the issues that impact Northern Ireland. We took a neutral position, to bring both sides of the debate together. We engaged thousands through public events, produced briefing papers informed by academic expertise at Queen’s University Belfast and created innovative online resources for community groups.

Post-referendum we have sought to facilitate debate on how to establish the best outcome for Northern Ireland in the Brexit negotiations.

This process has clearly demonstrated that there is a fundamental gap between principles and practicalities.

The current political debate has seen politicians across the political divide and across these islands ‘stand on principles’. This is of course understandable as they are entitled to espouse their legitimate beliefs and the concerns of their constituents.

This has created a new reality: uncertainty.

The reason for this uncertainty: the gap between the principles and the practicalities.

Over the past two years, we have engaged with groups and organisations across the business, community, agricultural, environmental, energy higher education, community, students and many others. Within many organisations and sectors, great work has been done to understand the impact of Brexit and on possible practical solutions to the challenges posed.

When one looks to the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement (and the subsequent Agreements), principles are reflected and respected. However, there is also huge pragmatism to provide mechanisms for dealing with complex issues.

For example, under Strand 2 of the Agreement (the North / South relationship), areas of co-operation identified include agriculture, energy, education, transport, health, environment, waterways, tourism and inland fisheries.

Many of these sectors have been transformed as a result of the Agreement. The agri-food sector operates efficiently and effectively on an all-island basis. The energy sector is making the best use of the resources of this island and reflects our peripheral nature. Business has thrived both North-South and East-West. Cities such as Derry-Londonderry reflect the reality of border life: businesses operating on a daily basis cross-border and the partnerships between Ulster University and Letterkenny Institute of Technology. Groups such as the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce and Intertrade Ireland reflect the interwoven nature of our economies.

One of the principles of the Agreement was that the 3 Strands and elements of the Agreement were ‘interlocking and interdependent.’

Two decades after the Agreement, the relationships in Northern Ireland, North/ South and between these islands are deeply entwined, not just politically, but socially, culturally and economically. The Agreement provided the space for imaginative new thinking and development of relationships.

The current Brexit issues have put strain on all 3 sets of relationships.

The way forward is to embrace the spirit of the Agreement. To respect principle and provide mechanisms for practical solutions that are in the best interests of all the peoples of these islands.

Whether it is the talks to restore the NI Executive or the debates around ‘the border’ in the Brexit negotiations, debate has become binary: one side must lose and one side must win. This will result in a zero sum game, in both cases.

I believe there are three ways we can move forward.

Firstly, we must revisit these three sets of relationships and use them as the template for resolving our current difficulties. I am quite certain that if we approached each and every challenge presented by Brexit and used the three interlocking and interdependent sets of relationships, we can ensure that each issue works for all in Northern Ireland, for North-South relations and for the UK-Ireland relationship.

Trying to solve this solely in London or leaving it to Dublin or between the parties in Northern Ireland, fails to understand the reason for the Agreement and its enduring importance.

Secondly, one of the failures of the Agreement has been the failure by some to see it as an ‘end game’, rather than a starting point. The Agreement provides the foundation stones to build upon. Again, using the three sets of relationships, we must have the courage to boldly imagine how to fully develop and realise the potential of these entwined relationships.

Many individuals, business and organisations have. And it’s reflected in the bonds of kinship and friendship between our peoples.

However, have we fully imagined what it actually means for people in Northern Ireland to be ‘British, Irish or both’? Have we realised the full potential of North-South bodies and the benefits of co-operation? Have we explored how Northern Ireland can be the bridge between Britain and Ireland?

Perhaps the issue of Brexit allows us to confidently and courageously re-imagine the potential of these three sets of relationships, not based on binary fixed ideologies but rather seeking to explore the incredible unrealised potential between our peoples. Interestingly, both the House of Lords and Seanad in their respective reports on Brexit recommended a new British-Irish Agreement – not to replace or undermine the Agreement, but rather to enhance our relations.

A British-Irish summit should be convened to include political representatives as well as business, civic and community leaders could come together to co-create an Agreement that truly reflects the aspirations of all the peoples of these islands.

Finally, it is also time to consider a fourth strand. A ‘global strand’ that encourages Northern Ireland, North-South and these islands to focus on the enormous opportunity we have in an internationalised world: the EU, the US, the Commonwealth and beyond.

So let us together dedicate ourselves to building relationships. Let us reimagine the possibility of our relationships. And let us courageously build a bridge between all our peoples; between principles & practicalities and between peace & prosperity.

Conor Houston is Programme Director at The Centre for Democracy & Peace Building (CDPB) developing programmes including EU Debate NI, Leadership Academy, Together & Music Unite.

  • GavBelfast

    It says a lot for this place that, what is a generally positive if concerned piece, well-worth reading and digesting, has taken two-and-a-half hours to gain a comment in response (this one).

    Perhaps we just prefer to squabble in a place where squabbling is endemic?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “one of the failures of the Agreement has been the failure by some to see it as an ‘end game’, rather than a starting point.”
    Nail on the head there. If we actually respect it as a settlement, a historic compromise, “Endgame in Ireland” as David McKittrick called it, we might be surprised at what a harmonious place N Ireland could be. It’s the attempts to see a dynamic in the GFA towards one side that have undermined it and brought us back to fear and mistrust.

  • Sharpie

    One of the reasons people feel far away from this type of debate is because they are. There is no ability for the ordinary person to get actively, intensely involved in participation around the issues?

    It certainly isn’t at the ballot box. Right now politics is supremely mistrusted – few have faith that their representatives have the desire or ability to deliver solutions. We know it. There is no different narrative to pursue. We are locked in a tango where we mostly step on each others toes. Time and again desperate faith and hope has been ceded to those who would work on our behalf but somehow never deliver.

    The GFA was a moment, a big one, the potential of which was wasted when the back biting and recrimination arrived and each failed to deliver on the spirit of the agreement. Northern Ireland should not be pedalling the GFA as a success story. Not yet. Only as a conflict cessation process. There is no reconciliation.

    The constitutional question remains constantly looming, like an open sore. It festers and it will not be resolved anytime soon. Mostly it feels like there is nothing to be done but wait for the right time for it to be sorted out and when its time we will know. Until then it is a good idea to seek short term accommodations and tactical plays and manoeuvres where they can bring us all a bit forward.

    The dog in the street knows the momentum is towards unification and the sooner everyone owns up to it the sooner we can really construct conversations and relationships of mutual trust and support and really innovative models of governance and protecting minority rights. Until then it will be those in different altitudes who will (continue) talk above the heads of the people and wonder why no one is listening on the ground.

    People are left behind. We should start right there.

  • Cory Kelly

    Right, so nationalists give up their aspiration for a United Ireland?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    No, the deal was that we all try our best make things work now, following the 3 strands, the institutions we all agreed, as set out in the GFA – and we can have a referendum on a united Ireland in the future if it looks like there might be a majority for that. It’s clear that the aspiration is legitimate, but it’s an aspiration of some for the future, not actually part of what we agreed to do today.

  • Sharpie

    This is a nice insight. I think people who have the momentum believe that it is only by continually reminding, continually mobilising, motivating, creating the conditions for it that it will happen. Much like the Brexiteers did for 20 years. The concept is a well-worn one – stop pedalling and the bike falls over!

  • GavBelfast

    No, but the Taoiseach of the time said that, while aspiring strongly to a United Ireland, if the Good Friday’s Arrangement’s were as good as it got, so be it.

    Unionists and Nationalists had to swallow bitter pills and pride for the GFA. Of course, we know the two parties who never signed-it, disgracefully aided and abetted by the same Ahern, and Blair, so no surprise where we are.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Except that it is written in misleading English. I guess what he means is: one of the failures of the Agreement has been the failure by some WHO see it as an ‘end game’, rather than a starting point.
    Any wonder the Northern Irish can’t communicate with one another.

  • GavBelfast

    It’s also worth reminding Unionists and Nationalists, and others, that the architects of the Good Friday Agreement felt it should continue to be in place in the event of a transfer of sovereignty.

    It’s one of the reasons why I, as a Unionist, so passionately believed in it, for I don’t believe in zero-sum games.

    Northern Ireland as part of the UK can’t be British alone; Northern Ireland as part of Ireland couldn’t be Irish alone. Plus, of course, the two islands would still be the closest of neighbours: CTA, family and other personal relationships, trade, simple geography, etc.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Well put, that is their thinking. Deep down, I think they worry that if N Ireland is harmonious, their people will lose the desire to go for a united Ireland. They realise it’s not an appealing enough idea on its own – they must make N Ireland as uncomfortable and unpleasant as possible to drive nationalists into the arms of a united Ireland. They seem to approach it like sheepdog trials.

    But at the moment, the Tories and Brexit are doing their work for them. It needs to pass, asap.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Oh is that what he was saying?! You might be right. If so, sorry for getting the wrong end of the stick. What he actually said was right by mistake then 🙂

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    And that’s the evident ambiguity that the GFA demonstrated and even promoted. Ultimately it was intended to mean everything to everyone, except the DUP.

    The St Andrews Agreement (much of which doesn’t appear to have been agreed or even discussed, according to its correspondents) took that ambivalence into an abstruse double speak that would be familiar to Orwell.

    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/beware-pitfalls-of-solving-the-irish-question-bqqtp8d9r

  • GavBelfast

    Indeed, Ben. And, while Blair and Ahern, especially Bertie, who saw the death and burial of his mother in the week of the Good Friday Agreement) can rightly take for the efforts they made in taking the parties over the line in 1998, should be shamed to the grave for their part in undermining the spirit of that time for their role in usurping things in favour of those who never signed theh same thing several years later!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    People were allowed to walk away telling their followers some pretty far-fetched fairy tales about what was in the GFA. The DUP was one such and they and the UUP had a massive spat on this after 1998 (the UUP won the argument but lost unionist votes for other reasons). There was a lack of argument on the nationalist side though. It seemed both parties wanted to pretend it was this great deal for nationalism and a dynamic towards a united Ireland – SF to save face over a massive volte face and SDLP because that had been what they had been trying to negotiate and didn’t quite accept it hadn’t happened.

    They told themselves they had “got rid of the border” and so on. Hence the surprise they experienced when reminded, with rather a jolt, they actually agreed for NI to stay in the UK until further notice. “But … but … you can’t do this … we didn’t agree to this …” etc etc. Based on foundations of sand I’m afraid. Nationalists allowed themselves to believe a story that suited them about the border going away with the peace process. It was never true.

    They have been indulged on this lie for too long and this latest fetishisation of the idea of a complete non-border is part of that. It is not what we agreed in the GFA – can we please stick to what we agreed? We won’t then go far wrong.

  • GavBelfast

    Much as the DUP need to be reminded of plenty – not least that David Trimble came with the thoroughly decent Seamus Mallon on a joint-ticket, but Paisley gave us the man who masterminded the wrecking of his own city and the graves of countless knows how many – Nationalists should alos not forget that, had (by common concensus of psephologists) at least 100,000 pro-Union voters who seldom if ever voted, mainly in the east of NI, not come-out and voted overwhelmingly ‘Yes’ for the GFA, it would scarcely have passed, and David Trimble certainly couldn’t have rightly claimed that a majority of the pro-Union population HAD voted for the “historic compromise”.

    But what BETTER Agreement there might have been had Paisley, and someone of the ability of Robert McCartney, as an orator if not a party-gatherer, not sniped, and walked-away.

    But then McCartney
    was always a maverick (I don’t think he would see that as an insult, actually) and Paisley, well, it was only ever about being top-do , wasn’t it – until he went from “Smash SinnFein” mode to that of “Dr Strange-bigot …. or, how I learnt to stop war-mongering and love the Bomber”.

  • Jess McAnerney

    “Unionists and Nationalists had to swallow bitter pills and pride for the GFA. Of course, we know the two parties who never signed-it, ”
    Who are the two parties who never signed it?

    I know the DUP opposed it but who else did?

  • Jess McAnerney

    “they should be thoroughly ashamed to the grave for their part in undermining the spirit of that time with their role in usurping things in favour of those who never signed the damn thing several years later!”
    In what way did they usurp things in favour of the DUP?

  • Jess McAnerney

    “But … but … you can’t do this … we didn’t agree to this …”

    Can you give examples I am not following you?
    Who has reneged on agreements and what where they?

  • GavBelfast

    They were cajoling and elevated the DUP and SF before the voters caught-on, because the DUP were continuing to thwart things with their childish ‘revolving-door ministries’ policy, and SF were prevaricating over decommissioning.

    At some point, it went from ‘Save Dave’ (and Durkan by that stage) to let’s do all we can to bring Paisley and Adams/McGuinness to the fore.

    Are U too young to remember, or would U just not be reminded of all the rubicons that the “Smash Sinn Fein” and “no internal settlement” camps went through to grab-power together?

  • GavBelfast

    Sinn Fein didn’t sign it either – their convention endorsed it once the people of both parts of Ireland had overwhelmingly done so.

    The people spoke – and led, they followed.

  • mac tire

    Your ‘insight’ into Nationalism, while always interesting, is yet again wrong.

    If anything, those within Nationalism who signed up to the GFA recognised the border. They also pointed out that the GFA provided a means for them to remove it, if they could get the numbers – for the first time written down and stood over by two governments, most of the parties and lodged in the UN, all the while endorsed by the vast majority of the people of this island.

    Over the years the EU made the border ‘invisible’. That suited most people.

    Nationalism has as much right to work towards removing that border, done by peaceful means, as Unionism has in trying to maintain it.

    You appear to want Irish Nationalists to stop …erm…being Irish Nationalists.

  • The Saint

    Unionism does a cracking job of not allowing nIreland to be that harmonious place you speak of.

  • Marcus Orr

    “It seemed both parties wanted to pretend it was this great deal for nationalism and a dynamic towards a united Ireland – SF to save face over a massive volte face and SDLP because that had been what they had been trying to negotiate and didn’t quite accept it hadn’t happened.”

    MU, the people who are deluding themselves over the Belfast Agreement 1998 are the unionist population and the British govt. themselves. Why these parties think that GFA was a success is truly beyond me. You seem to genuinely think GFA was a fair agreement between 2 sides. GFA is a huge dynamic towards a United Ireland (which doesn’t bother me that much, what bothered me at the time was that GFA released Michael Stone early from prison).
    Was GFA a fair neutral agreement between 2 sides (neutrally brokered by our honourable friends from the USA?):

    Did the IRA then put its huge stockpiles of guns and explosives beyond use ? (apparently yes, based on the opinion of one man who cannot be questioned about the basis of his opinion). Well then that’s settled.

    Where are the political apologists of the IRA now ? Why they’re in Government in Northern Ireland.

    What happened to the militants of the IRA in 1998 ? Why they got released en masse from jail, along with the loyalist criminals, long before their sentences for serious crimes were due to expire. What happens for an alleged murder by an IRA member or a loyalist before 1998 if it gets uncovered today ? Why, exactly 2 years maximum according to our lovely GFA agreement.

    While it is clear that loyalist and republican murderers from before 1998 are no longer pursued, what about the British soldiers and police officiers for alleged offences during the performance of their lawful duties during this terrible time 1969-1998 ? Why that’s easy, those guys get pursued and let’s throw the book at them.

    Who abolished its effective anti-terrorist surveillance and withdrew all its forces due to GFA ? That’s right, the British did.

    Who can no longer legally fly its flag in the capital city for much of the time, which sides emblems have been removed from police badges and which sides emblems can no longer appear on official documents such as driving licences?

    Which side declared that a portion of its national territory will be permanently surrendered on the decision of a single referendum in NI? Interesting that if this referendum is
    held and votes against a British surrender of territory, it can be held again, and again, and again, and again, every seven years. But if it votes just once for transfer of territory to ROI, it is a permanent and irreversible decision.

  • Ruairi Murphy

    You would do well to re-read Conor’s excellent piece above and reflect on the importance put on the relationships within “these islands” and the three strand approach.

    UK sovereignty over NI was accepted as part of the Agreement. It was accepted along with a whole host of different principles and measures that included binding the British government to “rigorous impartiality” as well as defining the framework for new co-operation and engagement between the North and South of Ireland. And not to forget the East-West relationship also.

    There is without doubt ambiguity in the Agreement but as Conor notes above it is largely about the entwining of these three relationships within these islands.

    For you to persistently trot out the “nationalists accepted the border and UK sovereignty… so tough luck” line without context to the full Agreement, is a deception on your part and willful neglect of any real analysis or objective thinking.

  • Ruairi Murphy

    “…performance of their lawful duties during this terrible time 1969-1998 ? Why that’s easy, those guys get pursued and let’s throw the book at them.”

    Nice paradox. If their duties were lawful, why on earth would they have the book thrown at them?

  • Tusk’s statement.

    Let me say very clearly: if the UK’s offer is unacceptable for Ireland, it will also be unacceptable for the EU.

  • Marcus Orr

    Of course their duties were lawful. Whether they exceded those duties is another question. To take one example, British soldiers are being prosecuted today over the alleged shooting in the back of a known IRA killer in 1972, Joe McCann, who riddled the Unionist MP John Taylor full of bullets (Taylor somehow survived).
    McCann was a criminal who attempted to murder Taylor. British soldiers attempted to lawfully perform their state duties by arresting Mr McCann. Mr McCann evaded their arrest, upon which the soldiers violated their lawful duties by shooting him in the back as he escaped. Who can be prosecuted today ? IRA criminals from that time ? Nope. British soldiers who exceded their lawful duties? Oh yes.

  • Jess McAnerney

    What an excellent and positive article

    All island cooperation has clearly helped transform the
    economy in the north

    The Dublin government in keeping out of the norths internal affairs has helped unionists accept these all island bodies, but has it also encouraged them that a one side victory is still possible and prevented any real effort at reconciliation?
    You would have expected over time seeing the benefits that attitudes would thaw and things would change

    To hear the DUP talk now about splitting these bodies up and that the rivers in the north will be the property of the UK only is really taking a match to the GFA

    The GFA is almost 20 years ago, and a quick look at the media reports even on this site, you would think the conflict never ended and things were as bad as ever which is clearly not the case.

    In the midst of it all, this article appears telling us of the positives, the benefits to business and how bonds of kinship and friendship have developed,
    Why have such positives been totally ignored in the mainstream
    media and instead we have been dealt a daily dose of opinionated bias.

    Is it any wonder the hatred has persisted and we are as divided as ever, even when a threat comes along which will hurt us all.

  • Ruairi Murphy

    Wrong on many counts.

    All crimes can be prosecuted today. Any soldier who broke the law should be prosecuted also. It is either lawful or unlawful – you appear to be excusing unlawful actions because they are on the part of the British army.

    To the larger point, you have your head stuck firmly in the past. Your attitude is astounding and I’m glad your type is firmly in the minority.

  • Marcus Orr

    “All crimes can be prosecuted today. Any soldier who broke the law should be prosecuted also.”
    I agree with you completely that any soldier who broke the law ought to be, no must be, prosecuted today. Just like any IRA or loyalist murderer. I am simply making the point that under GFA IRA men and loyalists equally got amnesties for their murders, and at the same time a huge emphasis was put on prosecution of crown forces. No problem with that, one of the great stinking messes left from the troubles was the non-prosecution of the soldiers from Bloody Sunday, for instance. But the problem of GFA was its legitimation of the loyalist and IRA murder as some kind of legitimate war – that I cannot and will not accept.

  • Ruairi Murphy

    There is a difference though between an amnesty and a reduced sentence. I can completely understand in principle reducing a sentence from life to 2 years may not feel that far from an amnesty but lets be clear there were no and are no amnesties for anyone.

    My problem with what you say is, above you accept that any soldier that breaks the law should be prosecuted but you have been complaining at length about said potential prosecutions? If a soldier acted lawfully but is subject to investigation about certain actions, do you not have faith in the justice system that they will not find themselves wrongfully convicted of a crime they did not commit?

    I am confused by your position. Should soldiers who broke the law be prosecuted for their crimes or not?

  • Reader

    mac tire: They also pointed out that the GFA provided a means for them to remove it, if they could get the numbers – for the first time written down and stood over by two governments, most of the parties and lodged in the UN, all the while endorsed by the vast majority of the people of this island.
    “means for them to remove it” – something like the 1973 referendum, then?
    Or the option that previously existed – by a vote for a UI in Stormont. I’m guessing you will be wishing you still had that option.

  • Marcus Orr

    “There is a difference though between an amnesty and a reduced sentence. I can completely understand in principle reducing a sentence from life to 2 years may not feel that far from an amnesty but lets be clear there were no and are no amnesties for anyone.”

    No, let’s be very clear about how GFA really played out in reality. Michael Stone and several other loyalists walked in 1998. As did many IRA men convicted of terrible crimes. They sold this GFA deal internally – on both sides – as a prisoner release. The war is now over. our prisoners get to go home etc. That’s how GFA got sold internally amongst the paramilitaries. No such talk about reduced sentences. The British govt. of course consoled itself by saying “it’s not an amnesty that the US has forced us to concede under pressure from the ROI/SDLP/SF, oh no, it’s just a reduced sentence for these criminals”. But that’s not how that played out internally in Republican & loyalist circles, you can be sure of that.

    “I am confused by your position. Should soldiers who broke the law be prosecuted for their crimes or not?”
    No, I don’t think you’re confused at all actually, I think you understand me perfectly. I already made it crystal clear that soldiers who broke the law must be prosecuted. What I said above in my first message was that the GFA agreement was the pathway to a new era in which loyalists and republicans have been released (under GFA terms) and no longer prosecuted for crimes of the past, whereas an eye has been firmly on the British state forces since then. What is difficult for you to understand in what I said ? Please explain. I’m interested to know.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    After all, its rhetoric is about a new beginning.

  • Ruairi Murphy

    I don’t dispute that it was sold as a prisoner release on both sides. I can totally understand how disgusted a lot of people were/are at it – it seemed to be necessary however in order to get the final deal done and bring us to peace.

    I’m glad you accept that British soldiers should be prosecuted for their crimes. Lets hope this actually happens and their victims get justice.

  • Jess McAnerney

    Support for the EU in Ireland is bound to be stronger than ever.
    I just hope the support the EU has shown towards us will help make the EU an even stronger blok than it was when the UK was in it.
    I wasnt the EU to be a success more than I ever have done before.

    The Home rule crisis was caused when 25% of the population mainly in the north east refused to accept the wishes of the 75% and resulted in the partition of our island.

    How ironic would it be, that 100 years on, the brexit crisis and the same population, still in the north east refused once again to accept the wishes of the majority of our island and it resulted in the removal of that partition.

  • Marcus Orr

    I agree with you on that.

  • aor26

    Well the reason Blair began doing everything to bring the DUP & Sinn fein into agreement was because both parties surpassed the SDLP & UUP in elections.
    They could not possibly have continued to focus on the UUP & SDLP due to election results.

    It seems extraordinary to me that the British government would seek to elevate Sinn fein. Extraordinary because it never happened. The voters elevated Sinn fein & the government responded in the only way it could (if democracy is to mean anything)

    Sinn fein surpassing the sdlp is what the British thought would never happen & they were very disappointed when it did happen

  • aor26

    A complete misreading of nationalism

  • Mimi Balguerie

    I just hope the support the EU has shown towards us will help make the EU an even stronger blok than it was when the UK was in it.

    Never mind Ireland: getting rid of the half-in-half-out UK and demonstrating the folly of leaving and picking a fight with the EU will make the EU stronger than ever.

  • Jess McAnerney

    It could also wreck the UK economy.
    Based on their performance to date in these negotiations, they could really knock their economy back 40 years

  • Cory Kelly

    When in the future? Its now twenty yrars since GFA. And given the mess that is Brexit, it cannot be unreasonable to ask the people within the nexf five years if they would prefer a UI in the EU.

  • aor26

    Sinn fein did accept the Gfa

  • Brendan Heading

    The piece does not say anything. It is a sermon. It talks about relationships, dialogue and so on. It doesn’t propose anything, it doesn’t confront any of the actual issues.

  • mac tire

    “Or the option that previously existed – by a vote for a UI in Stormont. I’m guessing you will be wishing you still had that option.”

    No, not at all. The arrangement in the GFA allows for the people here, not just a few reps, to have their say.

    It also allows a say for those in the 26 counties afterwards.

    That would be a wider and deeper democratic result, whatever it may be. That gives it more legitimacy.

    1973? It had great music.