A veteran Sinn Féin politician has created a storm after he expressed his personal concern that the public had been cheated by the Good Friday Agreement.
Mid-Ulster MP Francie Molloy said that voters were “sold a pup” with the 1998 peace deal. He was speaking after new Taoiseach Michéal Martin declared that a poll on Irish Unity, a key element of the accord, was still not on the horizon decades after the deal was signed.
A ‘border poll’ remains an unfulfilled promise, one of many concessions to nationalists which were never implemented or fell into disuse.
Despite coming under pressure from the media to withdraw the comment, Mr Molloy was unapologetic. He said he still supports the 1998 accord, but that his comments were made in criticism of Micheál Martin’s attitude. Speaking last week, the Fianna Fáil leader said it was his view that the Good Friday Agreement “dealt with the constitutional status of Northern Ireland... for a considerable time”.
Responding, Mr Molloy tweeted: “We were sold a pup with the GFA ....no commitment from either Dublin or London to deliver for nationalists or republicans it was just a bluff.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood slammed what he called “anti-agreement rhetoric”. Alliance Omagh councillor Stephen Donnelly described the comments as “a betrayal narrative”.
Asked about his tweet, Mr Molloy said it was motivated by a sense of disappointment that people were “finding ways of not implementing” the Good Friday Agreement.
“The Dublin government and the British government have to a large extent ignored the content of it,” he said.
“These people make agreements but before the ink is dry they have already dismissed it. It brings into any agreement you make with the British government, and any guarantee with the Irish government, that it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”
He added: “I support the Good Friday Agreement completely, but what I want to see is the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.”
But he said he still did not see any alternative to the deal. “The agreement is made, and the commitment to that there is a political way forward. I am not in any way advocating that there is an alternative. I want to see politics work.”
Mr Molloy added: “Twenty years on we actually need to look at the Good Friday Agreement and see a commitment from the British government to a full implementation of it in all its aspects, and one of those aspects is to call a border poll.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood accused Mr Molloy of attacking the “institutions of peace”. He said that the way forward is through a “New Ireland Commission” which would engage with unionists to develop new proposals that will “unite people across the island”. However, he indicated that republicans would not be invited to take part, insisting that Sinn Féin were “toxic to unionists”.