British prime minister not well briefed on Good Friday Agreement

Posted By: September 03, 2019

Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus
Few people know more than Martin Mansergh about the Good Friday Agreement, in which he played a key role.
In the attached letter in today’s  Irish News, he corrects the inexcusable  ignorance of Boris Johnson.”
—Fr. Sean McManus.


Martin Mansergh. (Tipperary, Co Tipperary). Letter in Irish News. Belfast. Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Grounds cited for the claim contained in British prime minister Boris Johnson’s recent letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk that the backstop is “anti-democratic,”  because it “affords the people of Northern Ireland no influence over the legislation which applies to them”, and because it would involve “removing control of such large areas of the commercial and economic life of Northern Ireland to an external body over which the people of Northern Ireland have no democratic control” are not valid. Unfortunately, this shows that the writer of the letter is not well briefed on the Good Friday Agreement.

An important part of the remit of the North-South Ministerial Council (para.17) is “to consider the European Union dimension of relevant matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programs and proposals under consideration in the EU framework. Arrangements to be made to ensure that the views of the Council are taken into account and represented appropriately at relevant EU meetings”. Obviously, this provision would acquire a new relevance for Northern Ireland in a post-Brexit situation, but it means that under the “Backstop” arrangement and continuation in the EU Single Market and Customs Union supported by a majority the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland do have a democratic channel in which to make an input into EU decisions to which they would be subject, on the assumption that the institutions are operational.
Apart from this being done through the Irish government at EU meetings, in practice, the EU would also be bound to listen to representations from the British government on behalf of a part of the UK that was in a closer relationship with it. Appropriate and more detailed protocols could be drawn up between the governments and the EU to make sure the input mechanism that is already there worked effectively in the new situation.