27 April 2006 Edition
Interview: Arthur Morgan TD Sinn Féin member of the BIPB
"Only time will tell" if DUP are serious
Sinn Féin member of the British-Irish Inter Parliamentary Body (BIIPB) Arthur Morgan TD spoke to An Phoblacht's ARAN FOLEY on Tuesday about the body and the DUP's presentation to it last weekend.
The British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body was established in February 1990 by both Governments. At the plenary session in Killarney in February 2001 it was enlarged to include representatives of the Six County Assembly, Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, the High Court of Tynwald and the States of Guernsey and Jersey. Because the North's Assembly remains suspended MLAs cannot attend. The Nordic Council was given Observer status at the plenary session held in Chepstow in October 2004.
Arthur Morgan points out that the awkwardly titled body was in reality established as a sop to unionism, institutionalising an East-West element in Anglo-Irish relations to counter what unionist polictians have referred to in the past as 'North-Southery'.
"It's not one of our favourite places to be but because of the Good Friday Agreement our party feels an obligation to work with it", says Morgan. "Also I should say it is comprised, not just of Irish and British parliamentarians, but of parliamentarians from the Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales, Jersey and Guernsey.
"I do have to say that there is some advantage to it because when you get as diverse a selection of parliamentarians gathered together you can learn a lot. I'm thinking here of issues like health.
"Also there have been cases where our North South strategy of harmonisation has been advanced. A particular case here has been the body's investigation into the harmonisation of driver penalty points North and South. This is work which is ongoing. We all know that drivers from one area are often accused of bad driving in the other. Part of the problem is that these drivers can get away with it when they are not in their own jurisdiction. If nothing else it will certainly help reduce the current carnage on the roads.
"My overall experience of it, as I have said already, is that it is not my favourite place to be. There are a load of Tory members and every time they speak it's to lay the woes of the world on republicans. We are responsible for everything and all problems are to be laid at our door. After a while they sound like a broken record but I have to say I challenge them regularly. Interestingly some of the Unionist-minded Irish parliamentarians are even worse than the Tories. It appears to me that they are trying to be more British than the British themselves. I usually wait quite late before I come in so that I can reply robustly to all of these people."
Morgan says that it is important to point out that the DUP did not actually join the body when they attended its session in Killarney at the weekend. "They just made a presentation. They, along with the OUP, have not being attending because they perceive it as linked to mechanisms created under the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1984.
"Their attendance yesterday created a lot of media speculation and they used the occasion to tell the rest of us that they actually do have a plan for sharing power with republicans on this Island.
"What they basically said was that when the IRA were no longer a threat, in their minds, and that when Sinn Féin was nearly ready to be unionists they would begin a series of consultations with "their community" around the Six Counties, which would take about two weeks, on the issue of power sharing.
"Asked when they would initiate such consultations, they said when they were satisfied their conditions had been met. They would know this they said by relying on The IMC reports, the British army, The PSNI as well as their own sources within the PSNI and intelligence. Now we all know the history of the securocrats and we can all guess at the answers these bodies will give them and in that sense the plan is heavily conditioned and biased.
"The one thing that may be positive about the whole thing is if it is an attempt to engage their base on the issue of power sharing. Only time will tell.
• It is important to point out that the DUP did not actually join the body when they attended its session in Killarney at the weekend