Hopes for a ‘reset’ in London

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The edging out of Boris Johnson as British Prime Minister this week has raised hopes that his successor will end the multiple attacks of his government on the Good Friday Agreement.

Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said that “opportunities may now arise to reset” and “freshen” relations between Ireland and Britain in the wake of Johnson’s departure.

After a several days of internal fighting within the Conservative party, Johnson finally agreed under extreme pressure to leave office by September 5.

After weeks of clinging to power, Johnson was finally overwhelmed last week by the constant flow of sordid scandals involving corruption and sexual abuse. The final days of his premiership were marked by increasing desperation and delusion.

A clownish politician who ended up trashing both the Good Friday peace Agreement and his own Brexit Withdrawal Agreement for short-term political gain, he halved his party’s support within three years of taking office and left his country’s reputation the butt of international jokes.

Despite low expectations for Johnson’s successor, there were hopes that he or she could change course.

“I believe opportunities may now arise to reset that relationship, particularly to avoid unilateralism,” in relation to the Good Friday Agreement, conflict legacy issues and the protocol, Mr Martin said.

Acknowledging that relations with the British premier have been “strained and challenged” in recent weeks, Mr Martin stressed the importance of upholding the Good Friday Agreement.

“I do get a sense that there’s an opportunity for people to go back to the fundamentals of how politics is done, how international relations are conducted, how agreements entered in to are adhered to.

“I would hope that that would be the impulse of a new Prime Minister and a new government.”

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald responded to the news by criticising Mr Johnson’s leadership and stressing the need to implement the Good Friday Agreement “in full”.

She said: “My sole concern at this point is that whomever leads the British Government, that they now enter into full compliance with international law and work to implement in full the Good Friday Agreement.

“Boris Johnson’s sole concern in recent times has been to placate the DUP, and to facilitate the most negative, reactionary strain of political unionism, all in a vainglorious attempt to hold on to power himself. It’s always been about him.

“We need leadership that is about fulfilling international commitments and in the case of Ireland a government that understands they cannot and will not inflict damage on Ireland.”

Political commentator Brian Feeney said he doesn’t expect things to get better under Johnson’s successor and was wary of the contenders(pictured, right) to replace him.

“Everyone of them supports ripping up the protocol and remember, no Conservative MP voted against its second reading. The bill giving amnesty for Troubles killings and closing down investigations has sailed through its stages.

“The only argument about Human Rights among the contenders is whether to leave the European Court of Human Rights or just wreck the Human Rights Act. In other words, whoever succeeds Johnson will carry on with his policies because none of them objects to his far right policies.”

He said “none of them gives a toss about the Good Friday Agreement” and that this government “stopped working the GFA in 2020”.

Sinn Féin First Minister Designate Michelle O’Neill said it had been “utterly absurd that people here were subjected to Boris Johnson for any length of time. He has no mandate in Ireland and is a figure of absolute disrepute.

“He has tried to sabotage our peace agreements, a quarter century of progress and our shared future and is truly no friend of the people of the north.

“He has failed workers and their families struggling with the cost of living. He has failed victims of the conflict and their families.

“He delivered the hardest Brexit possible against the wishes of the majority of our people, our political representatives and our businesses and he has torn up international agreements and shown contempt for international law.

“And he has attacked the Good Friday Agreement, backing the boycott of our democratic institutions to placate Tory Brexiteers and the DUP in a desperate attempt to hold on to power.

“This has prevented ministers who have a mandate from local people from tackling the cost-of-living crisis and investing an additional one billion pounds to help fix our health service.

“The current Tory chaos at Westminster is a daily reminder of the complete ineptitude and arrogance of this British government.

“The people of the north deserve better than this, only two months ago the majority of the electorate voted in the Assembly elections for real change.

“There is an onus on a new British Prime Minister and British government to begin work immediately to restore the Assembly, the Executive and the North-South bodies, to respect the democratic wishes of the people, to honour international agreements and end the threats to break international law.”

NEW DIRECT RULER

Meanwhile, Shailesh Vara (pictured, left) has been appointed as ‘caretaker’ Direct Ruler following the resignation of Brandon Lewis. It was announced amid chaos at Downing Street as Johnson attempted to retain a government following an unprecedented wave of resignations.

Born in Uganda to Indian parents, and a trained solicitor, Mr Vara immigrated to Britain with his family in 1964. The new Direct Ruler said it is a “huge privilege” to take up the role.

In 2018, Vara was a former minister in Belfast under then Direct Ruler Karen Bradley and Theresa May. In the past he has displayed almost no political or geographical knowledge of Ireland, telling a televison interviewer that “Northern Ireland is part of Great Britain” and reportedly asking officials if he required a passport to travel from Belfast to Derry.

He may be in his post for only weeks as a new British Prime Minister will seek to appoint a new cabinet.

First Minister designate Michelle O’Neill spoke to the new Direct Ruler by phone Following the call, she said she had pointed out to him that he is “the seventh British Secretary to fill the post under this Tory Government, and that while their priorities lie elsewhere, it is his duty for however short his tenure, to work constructively and even-handedly to restore power-sharing.”

Brandon Lewis leaves a legacy as one of the worst British Direct Rulers in reent memory and will be mostly remembered for his efforts to destroy the 2014 Stormont House Agreement.

Ms O’Neill said that Mr Vara’s predecessor had undermined political stability at every turn. She said:

“I made clear my position that his predecessor undermined political stability by failing to fulfil his responsibilities at every turn.

“This included giving cover to those denying the public democratic representation at the Assembly they voted for, and refusing to respect the democratic outcome of the recent election.

“The British government needs to accept its responsibilities and start working with all the Assembly parties, and the Irish Government to restore the Good Friday Agreement institutions, and stop placating the DUP who are in a needless stand-off which is unjustly punishing the public.”

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