Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

3 July 1997 Edition

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Back issue: Bill gets through

As the British government's devolution bill successfully received its third reading in the British House of Commons last Tuesday (and now passes to the House of Lords) there was uproar when Enoch Powell, MP for South Down, claimed that a senior civil servant had revealed to him the existence of a secret deal with the Dublin government on the constitutional future of the Six Counties.

Powell's claim, apparently just a part of Official Unionist sensationalism since the civil servant in question, Clive Abbot, only joined the Northern Ireland Office last February, was based on a researcher's unchecked notes of what Abbot allegedly said. Powell claimed Abbot confirmed that direct-ruler Jim Prior had been forced by a pre-existing secret deal to present a devolution bill rather than adopt official Conservative Party policy of restoring wide powers to the loyalist-dominated local councils in the North.

However, Prior, on his occasion anyway, was telling the truth when he said that the devolution idea was conceived last year, and the Dublin government's opposition to the bill speaks for itself.

SDLP-inspired British Labour Party amendments to the bill have been largely unsuccessful. The latest amendment calling for the establishment of a special committee, attached to the proposed assembly, to deal with relations between North and South, was rejected last Tuesday.

No date for elections to the assembly has yet been announced and they could yet be overshadowed by a autumn general election in Britain which the Tories are believed to be considering after their military victory in the Falklands/Malvinas.

An Phoblacht Thursday 1 July 1982

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1