Foster says No

Posted By: February 15, 2018

Distributed by Irish National Caucus
“It is so galling for Arlene Foster to falsely claim that‘ respect for the Unionist and British identity had not been reciprocated.’… To say that about the State of Northern Ireland that was artificially created in 1920 by an Act of the British Government is truly mind-boggling —a State that was created to be anti-Irish, anti-Catholic and anti-democratic….A State in which, in the not too distant past,  it was illegal to fly the Irish flag.”— Fr. Sean McManus

After DUP insists Irish language act is deal breaker, Dublin seeks hand in how North is governed

John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Thursday, February 15, 2018
The Dublin government last night signaled that it will be seeking direct input into how Northern Ireland is governed following the DUP’s decision to halt the latest effort to restore devolution.

Optimism that a deal between Stormont’s two largest parties could be brokered evaporated quickly yesterday afternoon as a statement from Arlene Foster said Sinn Féin’s desire for a free-standing Irish language act meant the negotiations were at an impasse.

The DUP leader, pictured, called for the immediate imposition of direct rule, saying the British government needed to set a regional budget and start making policy decisions.

However, nationalists appear determined to resist any plan for the north to be governed solely by the Tory-DUP partnership.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said the direct rule was “not an option”, while SDLP leader Colum Eastwood called on the two governments to “establish the intergovernmental conference”.

In a brief statement, Tánaiste Simon Coveney appeared to echo December’s remarks by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who said his government would expect to have a “real and meaningful involvement” in Northern Ireland affairs if efforts to restore devolution failed.

“As co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, the UK and Irish governments have an obligation to uphold and protect the letter and spirit of that agreement,” Mr. Coveney said.

“We will need to reflect in the coming days on how best to do that.”

Secretary of State Karen Bradley urged all the parties to “reflect on the circumstances which have led to this and their positions, both now and in the future”.

She said the British government needed to consider “practical steps” and that in the absence of an executive, it would have to take “challenging decisions”.

DUP blamed for collapsing efforts to restore devolution

John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Thursday, February 15, 2018

 The DUP was last night blamed for collapsing efforts to restore devolution after the latest round of negotiations came to an abrupt and unsuccessful conclusion.

Arlene Foster’s late afternoon statement took most observers by surprise as there had been an expectation that differences between Stormont’s two biggest parties could be resolved by the end of this week.

However, it appears the DUP leadership was spooked by unease within the party ranks and open opposition among broader unionism to Sinn Féin’s demand for an Irish language act.

“Sinn Féin’s insistence on a standalone Irish language act means that we have reached an impasse,” Mrs. Foster said in a statement.

She claimed respect for the “unionist and British identity” had not been reciprocated by Republicans and that the deal as it stood was not a “fair and balanced package”.

The DUP leader signaled an immediate desire for direct rule by calling on the British government to set a regional budget and to start “making policy decisions about our schools, hospitals, and infrastructure”.

At a Stormont press conference, DUP negotiator Simon Hamilton said the visit of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday had hindered efforts to secure a deal.

“I don’t think it was entirely helpful in getting us to reach a successful conclusion,” he said.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said her party had negotiated in “good faith” and that an “accommodation” had been reached with the DUP leadership.

But she blamed the DUP for failing to “close the deal”.

“They have now collapsed this process,” she said.

“These issues are not going away.”

Ms. O’Neill, pictured, said she would be in contact with the British and Irish governments and urged the DUP to reflect on its position.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he “regretted” the DUP statement and said “power-sharing and working together are the only way forward for Northern Ireland”.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney described yesterday’s developments as “very disappointing”

He said the Dublin government’s role as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement meant it had an “obligation to uphold and protect the letter and spirit” of the 1998 accord.

Secretary of State Karen Bradley urged all the parties to “reflect on the circumstances which have led to this and their positions, both now and in the future”.

“The position of the UK government remains the same – devolved government is in the best interests of everyone in Northern Ireland and is best for the union,” she said.

“I believe the basis for an accommodation still exists.”

Mrs. Bradley said she now needed to consider “practical steps” but that in the absence of an executive, the British government would have to take “challenging decisions”.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood called for the details of the proposed deal to be published.

He said his party would resist efforts to “hand power to a Tory/DUP government”.

“The balance underpinning this place is that nationalism and unionism must work together – that’s a reality that some still fail to face,” he said.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann also called on Stormont’s two biggest parties to publish details of what had been agreed to date.

“Print it, publish it online – do it whatever way they want, but it is vitally important that the people of Northern Ireland know what accommodation they did reach,” he said.

“It’s time for openness and transparency and for both parties to let everyone know where they got to, outside a select few in the leadership of each party.”

Alliance leader Naomi Long accused the two governments of being “too optimistic”.

She said the DUP and Sinn Féin had been “stringing them along”.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Smith said it was “desperately disappointing news, especially as there had been widespread hope last week that a deal might be reached”.

Blaming the “DUP’s unwillingness to accept legislation to support the Irish language or marriage equality” for the collapse he said:

“Karen Bradley will now have to explain how she hopes to get the DUP back to the table, and if that proves impossible, how she is going to take forward issues such as equal marriage, as well as dealing with tough decisions on health, education, and infrastructure that have been left unresolved for over 400 days.”



The leadership and willingness to compromise that forged peace 20 years ago has clearly been lacking

Irish language bogeyman may haunt former first minister for years to come

 John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Thursday, February 15, 2018 

FOR months the DUP has been saying that it was ready to restore the institutions without delay yet when it came to the crunch and agreement looked in sight, Arlene Foster effectively pulled the plug on the entire process.

 With her previous statements on an Irish language act she had clearly painted herself into a corner but even if the former First Minister had been willing to concede ground, elements within her party wouldn’t let her.

 In recent weeks,  we’ve been hearing that there was the outline of a deal and certainly the Taoiseach and Prime Minister believed the agreement was near when they arrived in Belfast on Monday. It quickly became apparent that their optimism was misplaced but hope remained that matters could be sorted by the end of the week.

 Now we are in a situation as bleak as any faced since the institutions collapsed 13 months ago. 

Because maneuvering this process have been so tightly guarded we may never find out where exactly the pressure point lay.

 Was it more to Nationalists than it would give to Unionists, though this has more to do with a failure to implement previous commitments rather than any inevitable slide towards Irish unity.

 As he deputized for an absent DUP leader at Stormont yesterday, Simon Hamilton’s assertion that Republicans showed a lack of respect for Unionists and Britishness sounded more like deflective rhetoric than pinpointing a red line that his party could not cross.


Portraying Sinn Féin as unreasonable appears designed to mask divisions within the DUP ranks and quell unease among unionism’s grassroots.

 It’s hard to believe Sinn Féin is shedding too many tears but nobody is likely to regard the political uncertainty ushered in by Mrs. Foster’s statement as a positive development. Michelle O’Neill laid the blame for failing to close the deal at the DUP’s door and given the mood of recent days it’s hard to argue with her.

 Although the DUP is ostensibly happier than the other parties with direct rule overseen by a Tory government that relies on [DUP] support for survival, that arrangement is fragile and could collapse at any time.

 Meanwhile, nationalists will not accept the imposition of direct rule without any input from Dublin and the manner in which the talks concluded, coupled with Brexit, means they’ll likely find a sympathetic ear south of The Border.

 When the smoke clears and the recrimination dies down, questions inevitably will be asked about Arlene Foster’s judgment and her leadership qualities.

 It appears no effort was made to prepare Unionism for concessions and instead she created an Irish language bogeyman that may haunt the former first minister for years to come.

 For the foreseeable future, Mrs. Foster will be the leader without an office, becoming increasingly irrelevant as her MPs steal the limelight and make the possibility of compromise more distant.


It now looks inevitable that the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement will pass with the institutions mothballed and the possibility of devolution remote. The kind of leadership and willingness to compromise that helped forge peace 20 years ago has clearly been lacking and the optimism that greeted the accord has all but disappeared.