13 April 2021
The two governments can’t be bystanders in stabilising the political process — Declan Kearney
“This is a time for those of us committed to a society with anti sectarianism at its heart, to talk over the heads of the sectarian gatekeepers.” - Declan Kearney
The 23rd anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) should serve as a reminder for both the British and Irish governments of their joint responsibility as co guarantors for full implementation of the Agreement.
The strategic lesson of the political process in the north since 2010 is that when the political and peace processes are taken for granted by the two governments, a context is created within which political instability emerges - and political crisis follows.
The Tory government’s approach to the north has been characterised by negative mismanagement from 2010.
The consistent bad faith and bad judgement of all Tory administrations during this period on handling issues from legacy to Brexit has been disastrous for the political process, the GFA, and its successor agreements.
Now the political process is once again under huge pressure due to the reckless behaviour, and lack of positive leadership from the DUP and political unionism.
The inflammatory language from senior unionist politicians and disproportionate influence of unionist extremists has once again resulted in violent street protests, at the same time as a ‘chaos plan’ has been brought into the midst of our political institutions by the DUP.
The GFA is under renewed assault from those who have always rejected power sharing, and the DUP is directly responsible.
Bellicose rhetoric from DUP politicians about refusing to work north/south processes, blocking implementation of key New Decade, New Approach deal commitments, and demanding the resignation of senior police officers is a wrecker's charter.
The DUP’s political vandalism towards power sharing and the GFA framework is untenable and must be challenged by all democrats.
The gravity of the current situation should not be underestimated and the wreckers should not be indulged any longer.
So, to reassert unambiguously, there is no campaign to reduce or remove the British identity, unionist tradition or orange culture. That would be anathema to implementation of the GFA.
But the fact is both the Tory government and DUP have made very bad decisions over handling their Brexit/EU withdrawal negotiations.
A hard Brexit was always going to have a consequence, especially when potential repercussions were at stake for the workings of the GFA.
The Tories knew EU withdrawal would not be achieved without a cost.
The pragmatists within the DUP, who opposed Brexit, also knew that very well.
What others in the DUP have never accepted is that the peace process has changed the political ground rules in the north of Ireland - and that is for the better.
The days of the DUP and other unionists getting everything their own way are long over.
The GFA sets new requirements for everyone. These apply equally to republicans and unionists - and to both the British and Irish governments.
The DUP and political unionism need to stop playing ‘jiggery pokery’.
Unionist leaders should be honest with all of those they purport to represent, instead of using incendiary language and tactics to deflect away from decisions which they own, and the new political realities.
Those especially in working-class unionist areas who are destined once again to be abandoned by the DUP and ‘big house unionism’, should pause to reflect. Yes, they do deserve better...
If the current leaders of political unionism will not engage positively, then those within the wider unionist family, who are of no consequence to political unionism and the Tories, should find their own voice.
There are more socio-economic issues to create common ground within northern society than to divide us: Such as fighting the Covid-19 pandemic; making the economy work; securing workers’ rights; building houses; and, protecting the health services and our schools.
Unionist extremists and the DUP thrive on communal division. Their approach only offers a race to the bottom.
This is a time for those of us committed to a society with anti sectarianism at its heart, to talk over the heads of the sectarian gatekeepers.
It is a time when the common ground of the GFA should be strengthened among democrats, all strands of civic society, and ordinary working people, regardless of background.
The two governments have an immediate responsibility to act in support of that objective.
This Tory government is not a bystander. It needs to become properly involved at the highest level jointly with the Irish government in stabilising the political process. ‘Flying in and out’ interventions are the opposite of what is needed.
Unchanged negative British policy towards the north will only fan the flames of political destruction.
Both the British and Irish governments should immediately reengage the significant good will of the United States and European Union, and with their support, urgently double down on full implementation of the GFA’s promise of proper power sharing, equality, parity of esteem, and inclusion.