Good Friday Agreement mastermind says Northern Ireland at risk of violence

Posted By: July 23, 2018

Ian Craig.South Wales Argus. July 20, 2018
Good Friday Agreement Lord Murphy mastermind says Northern Ireland at risk of violence

Former Torfaen MP Lord Paul Murphy has warned a deal between the DUP and Conservatives could undermine the peace process in Northern Ireland.

The continued failure to restore Northern Ireland’s devolved government risks exposing the people of the country to violence, an ex-Gwent MP has said.

Lord Murphy, who was Torfaen MP from 1987 until 2015 and served as Northern Ireland secretary in Tony Blair’s government, during which time he was key to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, was speaking in the House of Lords this week.

His comments come 18 months after Northern Ireland’s devolved government collapsed in January 2017 after the power-sharing agreement between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party broke down.

Saying “the Good Friday Agreement itself is at stake,” the Labour peer said he was concerned about the implications of the repeated failure of politicians from both the UK and Northern Ireland to get around the table to resolve the issue.

“In Northern Ireland, more than in any other part of the United Kingdom, when there are instability and uncertainty, where there is a vacuum, violence will fill it,” he said.

“We have seen that in the last couple of weeks, from both sides, loyalists and dissident republicans.

“That would not happen if we did not have an Assembly in Cardiff or a Parliament in Scotland. It happens, though, if we do not have an Assembly in Northern Ireland.

“We cannot take any more risks. We cannot drift anymore. We must come to a conclusion.”

Although he said he recognized the pressure both Theresa May and her Republic of Ireland counterpart Leo Varadkar were under, Lord Murphy said talks should be organized urgently regardless of Brexit.

“All the negotiations that led to success in Northern Ireland had the detailed involvement of two prime ministers in trying to persuade political parties to come to a deal,” he said. “No proper attempt has been made by either prime minister to do anything thing like the prime ministers in the past, including John Major and Tony Blair, did to move the situation.

“That should happen despite Brexit.”

He also said he was concerned the lack of a devolved government meant there was “no accountability” for decisions relating to the country.

Although he said he recognized talks would not take place over the summer while Parliament is on recess, the Labor peer said he believed “there is no reason in this wide world” why efforts cannot begin again in earnest in September.

The government collapsed after deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned in protest over an energy scandal which has reportedly cost taxpayers £500 million. He died two months later, aged 66.