Unionists selling supporters a false prospectus


By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)

Who said this? Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement which established an Irish Sea border is “a great step forward and is fully in accordance within the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.” David Trimble. That was October 2019.

Now last Saturday he says it’s the end of life as unionists know it, awful, a breach of the Good Friday Agreement, calls into question the democratic mandate of the Stormont parliament (nonsense) and caused threats to inspectors at ports (no it hasn’t) and much more hyperbolic vapours.

Arlene Foster asserted it breached the Good Friday Agreement because there was “no consent from the assembly, the Executive or the people of the north”. Wait a second. Is this the woman who opposed the Good Friday Agreement from 1998 to 2006 and effectively supported a boycott of its institutions until she adopted the St Andrews Agreement as a fig leaf? About which more later. Is this the woman who insisted on supporting the hardest Brexit she could, dissing Theresa May’s attempts to avoid an Irish Sea border despite the fact that the majority of people and business here opposed any Brexit? So consent only matters if its her party’s consent.

Trimble’s in the same boat if you’ll pardon the metaphor. Last Saturday Trimble wrote, “it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of its people.” Is this the same Trimble who supported Brexit in defiance of the consent of people here? Is this the same Trimble who extolled the virtues of Johnson’s deal with Varadkar – see above?

Let’s get this consent stuff cleared up. Consent in the Good Friday Agreement as Trimble, Foster and all the others standing on their heads know perfectly well, refers only to consent to constitutional change, not to change of any kind and certainly not to change in tax, customs and excise provisions which is all that’s at issue here. Furthermore, we’re dealing with an international treaty between the EU and UK over which a regional assembly has no say, much less a fictional Stormont ‘parliament’ which Trimble imagines still exists. Given the outdated doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty Britain could (amid uproar) alter Scotland’s power to raise income tax or change, as they have done last year, regional control of money for infrastructure.

The consent in the GFA refers to and refers only to, the prospect of the north leaving the UK. What unionists are trying to do, as they’ve tried to do repeatedly is to twist consent to constitutional change into a unionist veto on any change whatsoever. As for altering the GFA rules for cross community consent to accommodate the deal, it’s the same story: not a breach of the GFA. Remember the St Andrews Agreement when the DUP insisted on altering the rules for electing first and deputy first ministers? No? Obviously Foster has forgotten too.

It used to be cross-community consent but the DUP didn’t want to be seen voting for Martin McGuinness so they demanded the election be on the basis of the largest party in the assembly. So why isn’t that a breach of the GFA? Mind you, if you didn’t laugh at that one you must have a heart of stone. Do you think the DUP regret that as much as they regret their stupidity in supporting Brexit now that they’re likely not to be the largest party? Anyway, the Supreme Court has ruled Brexit doesn’t breach the GFA so the legal stunt is all moot.

It’s the same old story. Once again unionists are selling their gullible supporters a false prospectus so that when it’s rejected they’ll be able to embrace victimhood. In the meantime deny whipping up emotions in intemperate speeches being careful to condemn violence at the same time as entering the inevitable ‘but’ they can understand peoples’ feelings if they were pushed too far. An action replay. Deplorable.

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