The Dublin Government is a major threat to the Irish peace-process.

Posted By: September 10, 2014

“ … the Irish government [is] more interested in scoring cheap points against Sinn Féin…”

Again the noted Belfast columnist, Brian Feeney, hammers home the inescapable truth : the Dublin Government is a major threat to the Irish peace-process.


Brian Feeney. Irish News ( Belfast). Wednesday, September 10, 2014
IT SEEMS we’ve reached a new stage in the political process. Until now the Irish government’s role was to act as joint and equal guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement keeping British governments on the straight and narrow as they veer towards their default position supporting Unionism and denying equality of status to Nationalism.

Now, to judge by the words at the weekend of the minister for foreign affairs and trade Charlie Flanagan, the Irish government has adopted and endorsed the position of our clueless proconsul. Like the proconsul he seems content to let the Good Friday Agreement wither on the vine.

Speaking at Pembroke College Oxford, Flanagan gave a weak boilerplate speech offering no way forward. He pointed out that the northern institutions are “not functioning” and expressed the hope that Strand II, the north-south institutions, would not follow suit. Wow. There’s nothing gets past him. Instead of analysing what is wrong, Flanagan merely described the current position in exactly the same terms as the British, and publicly displayed his inability to supply a remedy. Our proconsul gave, as you would expect, a similarly uninspiring speech, predictable, dull and cliché-ridden, again with no indication of any blueprint for progress. Blaming both Sinn Féin and the DUP equally for the current stalemate is just plain wrong as well as unjust and infuriating. The origins of the present crisis, for that is what it is developed into, lie in autumn 2012 when the Lib Dems pulled the plug on parliamentary reform in retaliation for Cameron reneging on House of Lords reform. Cameron’s little wheeze had been to establish equal size constituencies across the UK to remove a lot of the automatic advantage Labour has in the first-past-the-post system. That would have had the effect in The North of reducing the number of seats in Belfast to three, creating a south-east Belfast seat for life for Naomi Long.

Suddenly in autumn 2012 that prospect vanished and the hope of retaking East Belfast was rekindled. Cue the DUP assault on the Alliance Party and the fomenting of flag riots throughout 2013 to hype up the sectarianism on which the DUP is based. The end result, they hope, is to take Naomi Long’s seat.

There was another immediate consequence of the abandonment of the Conservative parliamentary trickery and it’s this. Without the equal size constituencies it’s unlikely, despite the fact that Ed Miliband is a plonker, that Cameron will get a majority. But he might get close. Suddenly eight, and even better, nine, DUP seats became a prize to take on board. Since then any DUP wish has been a command for the proconsul, some wishes more embarrassing than others. As Jonathan Powell put it subtly on Monday about our proconsul’s shameful indulgence of the DUP on the OTRs, “I was surprised that was a gesture a politician would make, given that you have to have a relative balance if you are secretary of state for Northern Ireland on these matters.” Hmm.

All of this has remained beyond the feeble grasp of Charlie Flanagan. Even worse than his mimicking of the NIO position on the impasse in the political process was an interview he gave on Sunday in which he took the opportunity to have a go at Sinn Féin for the party’s opposition to welfare cuts. It was pure party political posturing. Dangerous meddling in the north’s politics unbecoming to a minister for foreign affairs given his role in safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement.

It’s a step too far for him to adopt the DUP position on welfare cuts, the intricacies of which he knows nothing. One point is certain, however. Those cuts will be radically altered after the next British general election. Already the Lib Dems have scuppered the bedroom tax. The DUP (and Charlie Flanagan) are supporting a programme which will never materialise.

A pity Charlie didn’t take the line the chief constable followed when he said it would be “appropriate and necessary” for the British and Irish governments to adopt a more ‘hands-on’ support for dealing with the past. With the Irish government, in the shape of Flanagan, more interested in scoring cheap points against Sinn Féin, fat chance.

Ironically, Peter Robinson’s intervention asking for a St Andrews Mark II is in effect an endorsement of nationalist demands for a proactive approach from both governments which Martin McGuinness would find difficult to refuse.

Of course Robinson hopes to use his party’s eight MPs as a lever to pry concessions from the British government in any conference before next May’s election. That explains his timing.