It’s obvious the British government has no intention of honoring the New Decade New Approach document

Posted By: October 14, 2020

 Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The chair of Westminster’s NI Affairs Committee – who he?– wrote an op-ed piece in the Irish Times on Monday.

For the last decade (and some would say longer) the committee, set up 27 years ago at the behest of Unionists, has been a menace to affairs in The North. It has acted as a Unionist theme park-cum-playground doing its best to undermine the developing political progress here while simultaneously striving to unpick parts of the settlement which brought republicans into the political process.

Monday’s piece was a welcome change from that approach. It began by pointing out that too many in Britain regard The North, and indeed the Republic too, in the same way that Neville Chamberlain saw Czechoslovakia in 1938 – ‘a far away country of which we know little’. The article went on to extol the ‘self-evident strategic and national interests’ of developing friendly relations between Westminster, Dublin and Stormont, ‘the tripartite approach’ exemplified in the New Decade New Approach (NDNA) document of January. Even more surprising, the article lamented, ‘the unilateral tone adopted by the UK government on how to deal with certain legacy issues coupled with the relationship straining Internal Markets Bill…which has cleaved Anglo-Irish relations at a time when cooperation is critical.’

This is a Conservative MP writing. There’s nothing like a majority of 21,000-odd to give you the confidence to stand up to your own government.

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t continue to the logical conclusion of its argument because it’s never clear whether ‘the unilateral tone’ is a criticism of our current proconsul or a criticism of the British government’s partisan pro-Unionist approach to The North for the last decade. It’s all very well praising ’the tripartite approach’ of NDNA but it has not been followed through in any way; quite the reverse. The only important date written in was to produce ‘within 100 days’ legislation to implement the Stormont House Agreement. Instead, at the height of the pandemic in April, well within 100 days, our proconsul ratted on the agreement and announced he was scrapping the Stormont House Agreement which all parties and the Irish government had negotiated. So much for a tripartite approach.

Then, again ,it’s probably a minor matter for a man who brazenly and infamously announced his intention to break international law to wreck another agreement, a treaty his government had signed ten months ago. Admittedly the Covid-19 pandemic has stalled progress on many fronts but evidently trashing agreements is a priority for British ministers regardless.

It’s obvious now that the British government has no intention of honouring any of the New Decade New Approach document. It’s real title will turn out to be New Decade Same Approach. It was concocted by this proconsul’s short-lived predecessor in order to bounce the parties here into an executive. It’s a con job. It quickly emerged there was no money to implement anything of substance in it and besides, its author was persona non grata and consigned to the back benches.

The current guy has no skin in any fight to implement it or, it would seem, anything else. It’s reached a strange pass when the taoiseach is phoning the British prime minister to ask for extra money for The North to enable the executive to implement stricter lockdown procedures

It’s disgraceful that the proconsul has not been loudly stipulating exactly how much more money is needed for The North which is always worst affected by anything that afflicts the UK, being always ‘on the hind teat’. Disgraceful but unsurprising for he was appointed like the rest of this incompetent Cabinet of nodding dogs not for any conspicuous ability or knowledge of the north, but for his abject loyalty to Boris Johnson, in itself an indictment.

The evidence suggests that he is one of those English people whose knowledge of Ireland is similar to Neville Chamberlain’s awareness of Czechoslovakia: knows little, cares less.