'Why Unionists Say No' by Peter Smith (1985?)
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The following pamphlet was written by Peter Smith. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the CAIN Project. If anyone knows who currently holds copyright for this pamphlet please contact the CAIN Project. The CAIN Project would welcome other material which meets our guidelines for contributions.
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Why Unionists Say No
Why Unionists Say No
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge:
The declared objectives of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 15th November 1985 are peace, stability and reconciliation. Such objectives are not, however, the exclusive preserve of the governments who signed the Agreement. All sensible and decent people in Northern Ireland, irrespective of their political allegiance or religious denomination desire these things; and their desire is all the more acute because most of the political violence in the British Isles over the past seventeen years has taken place in their midst. Northern Irish people, catholic and protestant alike, know only too well what terror and chaos mean. For us, the failure of government to bring peace and stability is as if carved on the headstones of the dead and written on the bodies of the mutilated. We long for peace above all else and know the benefits that it will bring.
But merely to state objectives for a policy does not mean that the policy will achieve them. The failure of peace, stability and reconciliation to materialise spontaneously in Northern Ireland after so many years of violence points to the existence of a set of deep-seated problems. Objectives, easy as they are to state, can only be attained if these problems are successfully addressed; and whether they are addressed or not, the policy achieves absolutely nothing of substance if existing problems are merely replaced or supplemented by a fresh set, likely to prove equally or even more intractable.
From the unionist perspective, the fundamental problem about the Anglo-Irish Agreement stems from the Irish Republicís claim to the territory of Northern Ireland. It is set out in Articles 2 and 3 of the Republicís Constitution as follows:
"Article 2. The national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and territorial seas.
Article 3. Pending the reintegration of the national territory and without prejudice to the right the Parliament and Government established by this Constitution to exercise jurisdiction over the whole of that territory, the laws enacted by that Parliament shall have the like area and extent of application as the laws of Saorstat Eireann (i.e., the twenty-six counties of the Republic) and the like extra-territorial effect".
This claim is bitterly resented by unionists not just because it specifically denies Northern Ireland the right of self-determination and fails to respect the rejection of Irish unity by the majority in the Province, but also because unionists see the Irish Republic as differing fundamentally in ethos from the United Kingdom and this ethos unionists do not share. If the essential cohesion of the Irish Republic is derived from the Roman Catholicism of the overwhelming majority of her people and, indeed, of the state itself (in that constitution, government and laws all clearly reflect that religious allegiance), plus an anxiety to maintain a distinctive gaelic culture, the Northern Irish unionist majority is largely protestant (not just in religion, but in attitude to the nature of the state and its relationship with the conscience of the individual) and looks to Britain not only for cultural inspiration but as substantially representing (albeit in an imperfect form in an imperfect world) much of what the ideal socio-political system should be.
The unionists of Northern Ireland see the Republic as constantly pressing the goal of Irish unity, attempting at every opportunity to undermine unionism ó particularly by its governmentís efforts (which have had a high degree of success) to turn British and American public opinion against the northern majority.
The Irish Republic is not regarded as a friendly neighbour. It is seen as sharing the same objective as republican terrorism: Irish unity. It is seen as having sheltered terrorists fresh from sectarian outrages in Northern Ireland behind weak extradition laws which apart from making the retrieval of suspect terrorists difficult, make no provision for the proper interrogation of suspects either before or after extradition. Its politicians have for long been perceived as exploiting the terrorist destablisation of Northern Ireland by making demands for intrusion into Northern Irish affairs in return for promises of stronger action against the Irish Republican Army and Irish National Liberation Army south of the border.
In 1983 the government and opposition parties in the Irish Republic joined with Mr. John Humeís Northern Irish Social Democratic and Labour Party in the New Ireland Forum. This exercise was designed to reassess Irish nationalism. However, its report, issued in May 1984, betrayed nationalismís unchanging irredentist and triumphalist nature. In the report, unionists were reduced to a mere "tradition" in Ireland. It was implied that unionists should be content to be left with their protestantism and "Britishness" in a "new" (i.e., united) Ireland. The massive problems of the entrenched influence of the Roman Catholic Church in either the existing Irish Republic or in a new Ireland were simply not addressed. Nor was examination given to the fact that the protestant population of independent Ireland has fallen dramatically since secession from the United Kingdom. The essential absurdity of the Forum report was the assertion (in paragraph 5.4) that unionism (which to unionists means the territory of Northern Ireland remaining an integral part of the United Kingdom) could best be accommodated in a united Ireland!
The Forum report proposed three options: a unitary united Ireland, a federal united Ireland and "joint authority" over Northern Ireland shared by Britain and the Irish Republic.
The Forum options appeared to have been rejected by the British government most colourfully in Mrs. Thatcherís famous "out, out, out" remarks after her summit meeting with Dr. Garret FitzGerald in November 1984. However, both governments remained committed to a process of negotiation and it was out of this that the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement was born.
The Anglo-Irish negotiations were carried on in secret. Yet, by the autumn of 1985, sufficient of the discussions had been leaked for unionists to realise that, without consultation with their leaders, major concessions were about to me made by Britain to the Irish Republic. It was also clear that Mr. Humeís S.D.L.P. had been taken into the confidence of the Republicís government, and, indeed, that Mr. Hume was effectively dictating the terms.
Nothing could more starkly illustrate the British governmentís contempt for the Northern Irish majority than the manner in which the Anglo-Irish deal was struck. On the one hand, as the British side perfectly well knew, every detail was being carried back by the Irish side to a party representing less than twenty percent of the Northern Irish electorate and which not only adamantly refused (and still refuses) to support the police or army in their life and death struggle against terrorism, but which has also boycotted (and continues to boycott) the brainchild of the present British government: the Northern Ireland Assembly. On the other hand, the British government was not only deliberately keeping the majority unionists in the dark, but was also dishonestly attacking unionist leaders for commenting on "rumour" ó despite the fact that, as subsequent events showed, the "rumour" turned out to be substantially accurate!
But perhaps the most extraordinary irony of the negotiations is the fact that having pledged in the Forum report that "... the political arrangements for a new and sovereign Ireland would have to be freely negotiated and agreed to by the people of the North and by the people of the South..." the Irish Republic played its part in trying to keep unionists in the dark as to the progress of the negotiations leading to the Agreement ó and still participates in maintaining the secrecy of the post-Agreement Anglo-Irish deliberations.
By 15th November 1985, the British and Irish governments had thus created a deep sense of foreboding in the majority unionist community in Northern Ireland. Something terrible was about to happen ó something so terrible that majority leaders could not be consulted because both governments knew that unionist rejection was a certainty. What was about to happen was so terrible that extra troops were on standby to fly to Northern Ireland on short notice and contingency plans had been made to cope with a general strike in the Province. What was about to happen was so terrible that the British government was letting it be known that Mrs. Thatcher, the "Iron Lady", had determined to "face down" majority unionist opposition in the Province just as she had already faced down the Argentinians and the striking miners. And when the Agreement finally came, to unionists it was, indeed, terrible.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement
The Anglo-Irish Agreement
"The New Ireland Forum was established for
The report of the New Ireland Forum was the child of nationalist Ireland. That the Anglo-Irish Agreement is, in turn, the child of the Forum is made crystal clear in the Preamble ó and, indeed, throughout the Agreement ó by repetition of phrases and passages taken from the Forum report.
Thus, key phrases in the Forumís terms of reference ó "lasting peace and stability" and "structures and processes" ó reappear in the Agreementís Preamble. The paragraph in the Preamble rejecting political violence closely resembles paragraph 5.2(2) of the report and the passage "...a condition of genuine reconciliation and dialogue between unionists and nationalists is mutual recognition and acceptance of each otherís rights" is very similar to the Forumís wording in paragraph 4.15.
Perhaps the clearest sign of the British governmentís adoption of the Forum report is the passage in the Preamble which recognises "the need for continuing efforts to reconcile and to acknowledge the rights of the two major traditions that exist in Ireland..." According to paragraph 5.3 of the Forum report "The British Government have a duty to join in developing the necessary process that will...promote reconciliation between the two major traditions in Ireland..."
It is highly significant that both excerpts refer to "Ireland" and not "Northern Ireland" and that in the Preamble "the two major traditions" are defined in terms of their constitutional ambitions for the Province. As a consequence, the British government has committed itself to require of unionists not just that concessions be made to "those who aspire to a sovereign united Ireland" within Northern Ireland, but also to those citizens of the Irish Republic who share this objective. It is incomprehensible that the British government should blandly seek to reassure unionists that the constitutional position of the Province is not under threat in the light of, on the one hand, this clear endorsement of the validity of the Republicís territorial claim and, on the other, the absence of any commitment from the Republicís government to repeal or amend Articles 2 or 3 and in the absence of any undertaking that it will desist in its persistent attempts to undermine unionism.
The resolve of the Republicís government to make no concession whatsoever on the issue of the recognition of Northern Ireland is made clear in the very first line of the Preamble. There are in fact two Agreements. The "Irish" version refers to "Ireland" and "the United Kingdom". The British version to "the Republic of Ireland" and "the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".
The need to resort to this device graphically illustrates the total failure of the British government to obtain even the slightest movement from the Republicís government on the issue of Northern Irelandís right to self-determination.
Another aspect of the Preamble which persists throughout the Agreement is the absence of definitions of the terms used. The Preamble refers to the "rights" of the two major "traditions", to "recognition and acceptance of ...rights" and to "the right of each of the communities in Northern Ireland to pursue its aspirations". Parts B and C of the Agreement mention "the rights and identities of the two traditions".
But what are these "rights", "identities" and "aspirations" which are alluded to and indorsed? Although nowhere defined in the Agreement, identical terms are to be found in the Forum report. This, again, betrays the genesis of the Agreement. And, indeed, the failure of the British government to insist that terms such as these are defined in the Agreement itself strongly suggests that it is content to rely on the definitions provided by the Forum. That the Forum report does not accord to unionists, as the majority in Northern Ireland, the fundamental right to determine which state the Province is to be attached to underlines the inappropriateness of such reliance.
The British governmentís failure to insist on the terminology in the Agreement being properly defined is designed, presumably deliberately, to facilitate ambiguity when it comes to attempting to sell the Agreement within the United Kingdom. It is, however, utterly irresponsible to compound the acute anxiety stirred by the secret negotiations which spawned the Agreement and the secret process created by it by deliberately ensuring that the meaning of key passages is left shrouded in mystery.
"The Irish Government fully accepted and solemnly
(Sunningdale Communique, December 1973)
Initially the British government pointed to this Part of the Agreement as containing some sort of novel recognition by the Republic of the legitimacy of Northern Ireland. It does no such thing. It merely restates the substance of the 1973 Sunningdale British/Irish communique which was subsequently held by the Republicís Supreme Court not to confer de jure recognition of the status of the Province.
The Republicís governmentís affirmation that any change in the status of Northern Ireland "would" (not "should") only come about with the consent of a majority in the Province says only that the Republic is not planning invasion and the recognition of the present wish of the majority for no change merely restates the message of every general election in the Province since 1921.
If any one Part of the Agreement clearly betrays the British governmentís failure to safeguard the unionist position in Northern Ireland it is Part A. Not only does it not require repeal or amendment of Articles 2 and 3 of the Republicís Constitution as a precondition to interference in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland, the British government did not even bother to extract an explicit undertaking that the Agreement machinery would not be used to further the Republicís claim to absorb Northern Ireland into its territory.
Far from reassuring the people of Northern Ireland of their right to self-determination, this Part actually does the very opposite. The two governments have now formally agreed that Northern Ireland can only move in one direction ó into a united Ireland. Whatever the merits or demerits of, for example, independence, Article 1(c) of Part A denies this option to the people of the Province no matter how overwhelming the majority in favour of it might be.
"We are resolved that the method of consultation shall
This Part of the Agreement sets up the machinery (the "framework" to use the word common to the Agreement and the Forum report) whereby the Republicís government is to participate in the process of government of Northern Ireland.
It has been alleged that the Republicís role is to be "purely consultative". This is simply not the case. It does not say so in the Agreement wherein no variant of the word "consultation" appears. The Prime Minister did not say so in her speech commending the Agreement to the House of Commons on 26th November 1985. The true position is as stated by Mr. Michael Noonan T.D., the Republicís then Minister for Justice, who described the Agreement as giving the Republic "a major and substantial role in the day-to-day running of Northern Ireland."
The government of the Republic has been given the RIGHT to put forward "views and proposals". The British government is REQUIRED to make "determined efforts" to resolve any differences with its partner. The vehicle for the Republicís intervention is the Anglo-Irish Conference, a body operating in secret and chaired jointly at ministerial level by the Permanent Irish Ministerial Representative and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Anyone who imagines that such machinery does not give the Republicís government influence over how Northern Ireland is governed on a day-to-day basis simply does not understand how government works. The right to interfere, to persuade, to pressurise at the highest level, enforceable by International Law, plus an obligation on the British to attempt compromise, are weapons of immense potential, particularly when granted to a state in respect of a territory it claims as its own.
Part B also makes it absolutely clear that the machinery is designed to work in one direction only. There is no reciprocal right of involvement in the Republicís affairs accorded to the British government. Throughout the Agreement, the Republicís government has been allowed to guard its flank against British criticism of how the Republic orders its internal affairs, even where its acts or omissions have a profound effect on the people of Northern Ireland. For example, Article 2(b) provides that "Some of the proposals may also be found to have application by the Irish Government" (my emphasis). There is no provision for proposals being found by the Conference to have application in the Irish Republic.
The words quoted are quite meaningless. The Republicís government could find any proposal before the Intergovernmental Conference "to have application" within its jurisdiction irrespective of whether or not this is articulated in the Agreement. The same device (and the words used are just as meaningless) appears in Articles 5(b) and 7(c).
That the Republic is to be involved at the highest level of the government of Northern Ireland is made explicit in Article 3. This Article also provides that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland may be called to account at anytime by the Republicís government making use of its power to call special meetings. Although the Article provides that "Special meetings shall be convened at the request of either side" it is unlikely that the British government would have occasion to make such a request, except in very rare circumstances ó the Agreement, after all, relates to what is nominally part of the United Kingdom and not the Irish Republic.
Although capable of affecting the lives of the people of Northern Ireland in every significant facet of their existence, there is no provision for any participation by the majority unionist community in any aspect of the Conferenceís work. Further, the initial meetings of the Conference have confirmed that its deliberations are to be kept secret. Thus, the British government is now legally obliged if called upon to process every significant aspect of the government of Northern Ireland and make "determined efforts... to resolve any differences" with the government of another state which claims the territory of Northern Ireland whereas unionists are not only to be totally excluded, but are also to be kept completely in the dark as to the true nature of the discussions.
Article 3 contains the only reference in the Agreement to what the Republic clearly regards as a vital component of the Conference structure ó the Secretariat. The appointment by the Republicís government of extremely high-powered members of its Civil Service indicates that the Republic intends to use this body, permanently based near Belfast, as a means of constantly harassing and pressurising the British administration of the Province into a steady stream of concessions not just to nationalists inside the Province but also to nationalists in the rest of Ireland. That such concessions should have a destablising effect on the unionist community will not be unintended ó unionist protests will be used to help persuade British public opinion that Northern Ireland is indeed what Mr. Hume has long professed to believe it to be ó "a failed political entity" ó and thus soften Britain up for further movement towards the goal of Irish unification.
The fundamental injustice of the Agreement is to be found in Article 4. Paragraph (a) of this Article betrays the hand of the New Ireland Forum draughtsmen once again where it describes the Conference as a "framework" for, amongst other things, accommodating the undefined "rights and identities of the two traditions which exist in Northern Ireland." Paragraphs (b) and (c) deal with devolution, declaring the Republicís governmentís support for the British governmentís policy of devolution "on a basis which would secure widespread acceptance throughout the community."
"Widespread acceptance throughout the community" means that any form of devolution desired by the unionist majority in Northern Ireland must be accepted by the minority S.D.L.P. So whereas the British government requires the endorsement of a minority party before it will permit devolved government for the Province, the Anglo-Irish Agreement was conceived and is to be implemented in the teeth of fierce majority opposition. The British government does not know what the word "fair" means.
By Article 4(c) the Republicís government is specifically given power to put forward "views and proposals on the modalities of bringing about devolution...insofar as they relate to the interests of the minority community." Thus, it appears that yet another complication is to be added to the devolution conundrum. Not only has it to suit the S.D.L.P. it also has to suit whatever government happens to be in power in the Republic. Or, if the S.D.L.P. and the Republicís government see eye-to-eye on the issue (as they usually do) that minority party now has a powerful ally entitled to press the S.D.L.P.ís point of view in the secret confines of the Conference with no provision whatsoever for any equivalent balancing role for unionists.
The devolution carrot has been held out to unionists as a way of rendering the Anglo-Irish Conference redundant. This is based on the limitation of the terms of reference of the Conference to "matters not the responsibility of the devolved administration in Northern Ireland." (Article 2(b)). This certainly not the view of the Republicís government. According to Dr. Garrett FitzGerald, interviewed on R.T.E. radio the day the agreement was signed, if devolved government were to come into existence in Northern Ireland "the Conference would be confined to functions such as security, questions of identity, flags and emblems and civil rights..."
So, it is quite clear that even if unionists were to accept devolution on terms dictated by the S.D.L.P. and the Republicís government, the secret process established by the Agreement would continue indefinitely calling the shots in, for example, that most vital area of all ó internal security.
Frustrate their knavish tricks."
(Henry carey, Chrononhotonthologos).
The general description of political matters in the first part of Article 5(a) is couched in unadulterated Forumese. Undefined "rights and identities of the two traditions" re-emerge to become the "concern" of the Conference. Discrimination (including economic and social discrimination) is henceforth to be prevented and avoided through the medium of the new machinery. Thus, after fourteen years of governing Northern Ireland to the virtual exclusion of its inhabitants, the British government has, apparently, so failed to root out discrimination that it must now enlist the assistance of the Republicís government. This government certainly has it within its power to be of assistance, albeit in the unintended sense that it governs a state so rife with "economic and social discrimination" that it should know all about the problem.
Among the specific "political matters" to be "considered" are "changes in electoral arrangements." As ever, this phrase is not defined. It seems clear, however, that it is intended to refer to the introduction of the proportional representation system of voting in Westminster elections in the Province in order to increase the scale of nationalist representation.
Whatever the dubious value of having a few more Irish nationalists reluctantly participating to the minimum degree in a parliament they want no part of, it would be interesting to see whether the British government affords this aid to representation to minorities in Great Britain (e.g., blacks, Social Democrats, Liberals, Hindus etc.) who are, after all, as groups, distinguished by their loyalty to the British state.
Article 5 also gives the Irish government the right, pending devolution, to put forward "views on proposals for major legislation and on major policy issues". Considering that devolution will only be permitted on terms unacceptable to unionists this means that the British government will be attempting to "resolve any differences" it has with the Republic on these issues for as long as the Conference survives. That the Republicís government may only put forward its views "where the interests of the minority community are significantly or especially affected" is no limitation at all considering that it is virtually impossible to think of any major legislative or policy issue which would not "significantly affect" the minority. Thus, education, health and social services, housing, even agriculture, industrial development, tourism, transport etc., etc., ó in fact everything of any importance at all affecting the ordinary British citizen in Northern Ireland will be subject to secret input from the Republicís government. That this government competes with Northern Ireland extensively in many of these fields, that the services it provides for its own people are to say the least antediluvian are facts simply ignored by the British government in its anxiety to appease Irish nationalist opinion.
Article 5 also contains the most poignant provision in the whole sorry document. The Conference must "consider...the advantages and disadvantages of a Bill of Rights in some form in Northern Ireland." The wording is excruciatingly cautious for one obvious reason: both governments dread the call for any kind of comprehensive Bill of Rights to be introduced throughout their respective jurisdictions. By and large the British establishment believes that enshrining fundamental rights (such as those conferred by the United States Constitution) in legislation would simply be a charter for troublemakers to constantly haul the government before the courts. For its part, the Republicís government could have immense difficulties in coping, on the one hand, with the reform lobby and, on the other, with the conservative Roman Catholic Church on, for example, the issue of civil divorce in the Republic, if it were to show itself too enthusiastic in obtaining extensive "rights" for Northern nationalists.
The extent to which the Republic is to be permitted to interfere in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland is, perhaps, most starkly illustrated by Article 6. Not only is the Republicís government given the right to put forward "views and proposals" through the Conference as to "the role and composition" of listed bodies, some of which deal with the most sensitive and divisive issues in Northern Ireland, it is also guaranteed the same right in respect of all the very many bodies appointed either by the Secretary of State or by Northern Ireland government departments. In this Article, the right of intrusion is not limited to areas where the interests of the minority community are at stake.
"ĎWhat is the ultimate purpose of Government, if it
Of all the issues of deep concern to people in Northern Ireland, security is paramount. A significant proportion of unionist opinion attributes the failure of British security policy at least in part to what is seen as a safe haven for republican terrorists in the Irish Republic. Thus, to involve the government of that state in devising and implementing security policy in Northern Ireland is seen not as likely to strengthen, but as certain to weaken the anti-terrorist drive.
The Republicís government has been given extensive rights in this profoundly sensitive area. Besides the right to influence Northern Irelandís security and prison policies at the highest level, a right to raise specific incidents is conferred. Further, the Conference may address "forthcoming events" ó obviously a reference to "traditional" loyalist marches.
Nothing could more clearly illustrate the insensitivity of the British government to feelings amongst the unionist majority in Northern Ireland than their permitting the intrusion of the Republicís government into the area of demonstrations, the fundamental purpose of which is to repudiate any interference by the Republic in Northern Ireland. That the security forces should be perceived as even indirectly acting at the behest of the Republicís government in this extraordinarily delicate area will not only appear to give spurious justification to troublemakers in the majority community, but will also distance government from many ordinary law-abiding men and women who would otherwise be anxious to support it in the security field.
This is not to say that the British government should not be concerned to ensure that "forthcoming events" are not permitted to adversely affect the stability of Northern Ireland. But the people of Northern Ireland have their own lawfully elected political leaders well able to speak for them on such issues.
Article 7(c) also contains one of those apparently unconscious ironies with which the Agreement is littered. It is provided that a programme of ĎĎspecial measures " may include "action to increase the proportion of members of the minority in the Royal Ulster Constabulary..." No doubt one type of "action" would be to prevent such members of the minority community being murdered by other members of the minority community using the Irish Republic as a base or obtaining guns and explosives from that country. But, in truth, the only "action" really needed is not nearly so burdensome. If it really wants to see the Royal Constabulary reflect the religious balance in Northern Ireland, all that the Republicís government has to do is to use its considerable influence with Mr. Humeís S.D.L.P. to require that party, which otherwise receives so many benefits under the Agreement, to come out in support of the police. It is perhaps some measure of supineness of the British government that it did not insist on this being done before signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desiríst."
(Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice)
On this very important area the Agreement is extraordinarily vague, even by its own exceptional standards. Part E does, however, refer to two issues which unionists consider to be of vital concern.
First, there is mention of "mixed courts in both jurisdictions for the trial of certain offences". This reflects the Republicís governmentís policy of attempting to undermine the Northern Irish judiciary by attacks on it, particularly over the past two years.
This criticism is purely political ó no member of the Republicís judiciary has been heard to attack the Northern Bench and judges from both jurisdictions enjoy close relations founded on mutual respect. Further, notwithstanding such criticism, no one has thought to set in motion the constitutional machinery provided for the removal of judges and in her speech to the House of Commons commending the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Prime Minister said that her government had "...absolute confidence in the judiciary in Northern Ireland. Indeed, the integrity and courage which they have shown in recent years in maintaining high standards of judicial impartiality have been outstanding."
Against this background there is an inescapable conclusion that from the British governmentís point of view any involvement by the Republicís judges in the Northern Irish courts is a matter of political expediency and would not be designed to improve the quality of justice.
For centuries one of the clearest expressions of the British Crownís sovereignty over its dominions has been its exclusive control over the administration of justice. That the involvement in the judicial system of part of the United Kingdom of a judge from another country amounts to both a symbolic and an actual divesting of sovereignty is clear beyond argument. Yet this is what the British government is pledged to consider by the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
The claim by Austria-Hungary that its officials take part in the trials of persons involved in the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand was so offensive to Serbia that she chose war with her mighty neighbour rather than accept such an humiliating demand. That the present British government should consider insulting a Bench against which it has made no accusation shows a degree of self-abnegation virtually unparalleled in the history of any self-respecting state in the twentieth century.
Secondly, Part E contains the only reference in the Agreement to extradition. Although this in not made clear in the Agreement, "policy aspects of extradition" can only refer to extradition from the Republic to Northern Ireland. There has never been any reluctance on the part of the Northern Irish authorities to extradite terrorist suspects to the Republic irrespective of their political hue.
If any one issue is seen by unionists as evidencing the Republicís ambivalence towards Northern Ireland it is what is viewed as the reluctance of successive governments of the Republic to implement an effective system of extradition of terrorist suspects wanted in Northern Ireland. On the one hand, the Republicís politicians are ever ready to claim that all the people of Northern Ireland are part of the "Irish nation." On the other hand, however, although that part of their Irish nation has been under vicious attack by terrorists sheltering in the Republic, for upwards of seventeen years no government in the Republic lifted a legislative finger to provide for easier extradition or the effective interrogation of suspects before and after extradition. True, the Irish courts have narrowed their interpretation of the exemption from extradition of those accused of "political" crimes, but this was the work of judges, not politicians.
The Republicís politicians have sought to justify their failure to tackle the problem of extradition by alleging that public opinion in the Republic would not tolerate reform. Some unionists interpret this lack of courage as pointing to a desire on the part of certain so-called constitutional politicians in the Republic to see increased violence with concomitant increased instability in Northern Ireland which thus furthers their objective of a united Ireland.
Article 9 refers to "enhancing cross-Border co-operation on security matters" by requiring the Republicís Police Commissioner and the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to undertake a "programme of work" to be "set in hand" by the Conference.
Unionists find this kind of provision puzzling, to say the least. Successive governments of the Republic have shown themselves to be sensitive to the charge that there was more that they could have done in terms of co-operation with the security forces in the North to defeat terrorism. Yet, according to the Prime Minister: "The really vital element in this programme is fuller and faster exchange of information, especially pre-emptive intelligence which helps to prevent acts of terrorism."
But why, unionists ask, has it taken the Anglo-Irish Agreement to produce this "really vital element" the absence of which in the past has translated into the reality of dead civilians, police officers and soldiers in Northern Ireland? Are unionists being unfair in arguing that the Agreement clearly demonstrates a cynical withholding of full security cooperation by the Republicís government in the past in order to induce the British to grant that state a say in Northern Irelandís internal affairs?
The argument that the Irish Republic has been dragging its feet in the fight against terrorism finds support in the joint communique which accompanied the Agreement. In it, Dr. FitzGerald announced the intention of his government to accede as soon as possible to the European Convention on the Supression of Terrorism. This has been greeted by Mrs. Thatcher as "a major and a welcome step forward in the war against terrorism." This raises a further, inescapable question: If the Republicís government is as dedicated to peace and stability in Northern Ireland as it pretends, why did it not accede to the anti-terrorism Convention long ago?
Article 10 refers to "international support" for the development of parts of Ireland, north and south, most affected by the troubles. This Article has a double significance. From the point of view of the Republicís government, ever hard pressed for finance, any opportunity to get hold of cash from America or Europe is more than welcome. The British government, on the other hand, seems to believe that the bitter pill of the Agreement will be easier to force down the throats of unionists if sugared by foreign money.
Any investment of capital from abroad in Northern Ireland is more than welcome. But the people of the Province have heard "crock of gold" stories before and, in reality, even a few hundred million dollars from the United States shared with the Republic will not even begin to meet the Provinceís needs. What is more, the notion that unionists could be bribed into betraying their vital interests for any amount of money from America, or anywhere else for that matter, is as nonsensical as it is insulting.
It has been alleged by some that Article 11 of the Agreement means that it has a probationary phase of three years, at the end of which the British can withdraw if it does not appear to be bearing fruit. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Agreement is forever. The review provisions of Article 11 manifestly do not provide for determination by either government and, indeed, the Agreement contains no machinery by which it can be terminated and the Anglo-Irish Conference wound up.
It may be thought that the British government can nevertheless withdraw from the Agreement at any time because, on the face of it, the Agreement itself contains no mechanism whereby this might be prevented. Such a course is not open to the British government. The Agreement has been registered with the Secretariat of the United Nations under Article 102 of the UN Charter. If the British attempted unilateral repudiation it would be open to the Republicís government to seek to enforce the Agreement by bringing the United Kingdom before the International Court with all the concomitant embarrassment for Britain at the bar of world opinion that this would entail.
But the enforceability of the Agreement in international law does not mean that it is "the law of the land" within the United Kingdom. The Agreement is one made between governments and not between states. It has not been executed by the Sovereign ó the procedure required to make it binding on the British people. In spite of its endorsement by Parliament, the Agreement remains nothing more than government policy which every citizen has a perfect right to oppose if he pleases (provided, of course, that he keeps within the law).
"This continuing determination of successive governments in Dublin to extend their authority, by one means or another, over the whole country gives special importance to the fortunes of the Protestant population actually under their control ó the people, that is, among whom the Anglo-Irish tradition still survived. When the Irish Free State was established they amounted to rather more than ten percent of the total population, a proportion that had remained fairly constant for generations. By the 1940s it had sunk to less than six percent; and the decline has continued, so that it seems not unlikely that before the end of the century Protestantism will be virtually extinct over the greater part of Ireland."
The Anglo-Irish Agreement has created a form of joint authority over Northern Ireland to be exercised by the governments of the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic. Admittedly, it is not quite the full blown variety as envisaged in the New Ireland Forum report but joint authority it nonetheless is.
Unionists have always rejected any intrusion by the Irish Republic into the internal affairs of Northern Ireland. They have rejected and will continue to refuse to accept the role of the Anglo-Irish Conference which they see as an instrument designed to prise the Province out of the United Kingdom by easy stages.
But if what has happened is bad, the future bodes even worse. If the Anglo-Irish Conference continues in being the day must inevitably come when the Permanent Irish Ministerial Representative, pledged to work for a united Ireland, sits down behind the closed doors of the Conference beside his co-chairman who, as a Labour Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, is also pledged to achieve a united Ireland. At that point in time, unionists will be forgiven for regarding all talk of "constitutional guarantees" or "unionist consent to change in Northern Irelandís status" as so much pap.
But even before that fateful day, the stability the Agreement professes to seek will surely prove elusive. Supporters of the Agreement would argue that to have the desired effect of attracting nationalists away from Sinn Fein, the Conference will have to produce changes in Northern Ireland as required by the S.D.L.P. ó the political opponents of unionism. But those very changes will be resented by unionists not only for their content, but also for the manner and source of their devising. Tension in the majority community will be constantly heightened by a drip feed of Conference decisions inevitably preceded by the leaks and rumours which have long accompanied British/Irish negotiations.
On the other side of the divide, stability depends on a reduction of republican terrorist violence. But it was that very violence that induced the British government to make the fundamental concessions to Irish nationalism inherent in the Agreement. Why should the terrorists stop now? How can they stop now, when to do so would be to hand the fruits of the "armed struggle" to the "armchair republicans" of the S.D.L.P. and the Republicís government?
Perhaps unionistsí most fundamental objection to the Agreement is the inequality of treatment accorded to Northern Ireland compared with other parts of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland is the only part subject to a system of government to which the majority of is citizens do not consent. It is inconceivable that Westminster would attempt such a course in respect of Scotland or Wales or an English region. Indeed, when constitutional change was proposed for Scotland and Wales in the 1970s, not only were referendums held in those countries, but the introduction of the changes was made dependent on their attaining greater than simple majorities (which were not, in the event, achieved).
It is this separation of Northern Ireland from the rest of the Kingdom, combined with the inequality of treatment meted out, which provides the justification for the argument that the Agreement should not be forced on an unwilling majority in the Province. And this is irrespective of the anxiety of the parliamentary representatives of England, Scotland and Wales to appease Irish nationalism at the expense of those in Northern Ireland who wish for nothing more than recognition of their entitlement to exercise the same rights and bear the same responsibilities as all other British citizens.
Unionists have heretofore readily accepted their obligation to suffer the imposition of policies they disagreed with if these were similarly imposed on all the other inhabitants and regions of the Kingdom. But if Northern Ireland is to be treated separately, unionists argue that justice dictates that any policy unique to Northern Ireland and which vitally affects its method of government be not forced on the Province in the teeth of majority opposition.
"A Conservative government is an organized hypocrisy"
It is not difficult to understand why the British government chose to try to keep unionists in the dark as to what it was planning with the Republicís government. The incipient Agreement was obviously going to be seen by unionists for what it was ó and is ó a dilution of Northern Irelandís position as an integral part of the United Kingdom.
Also, it is not difficult to identify the element in the British establishment which has championed major concessions to nationalist Ireland. There has always been a powerful lobby which has argued for the "final solution" of the Irish problem by forcing of unionists into a united Ireland. The reasoning is that once forced in unionists will have no alternative but to negotiate whatever deal they can with the nationalist majority.
This lobbyís principal interest is strategic. Britain has always required a stable, friendly Ireland on its flank ó indeed a great deal of Britainís historical involvement in Ireland can be explained by this ambition. In this it is currently at one with the United States which seeks the Republicís participation in N.A.T.O., a role the Republic has long resisted in advance of the unification of the island.
Many unionists believe that a combination of these interests prevailed on the British government to participate in a process (of which the Agreement is just the beginning) which is designed to lead to Irish unity and the sealing of the Westís defences. In the short term added bonuses are an improvement in Britainís image in the United States and the undermining of the vociferous Irish-American lobby there.
But whatever the British governmentís motivation, it is not easy to explain why its negotiators managed to extract virtually nothing in return from the Republicís government or the S.D.L.P. The Republic is permitted a say in the running of Northern Ireland without making the slightest concession on its constitutional claim or in its ethos. The S.D.L.P. is given a voice at the highest level of the government of Northern Ireland through the agency of the Republicís government without the slightest endorsement of the security forces or the judicial system in Northern Ireland ó both of which have suffered so much over the years in pursuit of the defeat of terrorism.
And neither the Republicís government nor the S.D.L.P. have given any undertaking as to their future actions. The Republic has not promised to desist from continuing attempts to undermine Northern Irelandís position in the United Kingdom. The S.D.L.P. has made no concession in its long-established position on devolved government for Northern Ireland which precludes it from co-operating with unionists to devise a fair form of participatory internal administration for the Province.
It is clear from a reading of the Forum report that the Anglo-Irish Conference is nothing less than a mechanism to be utilised to achieve Irish unity. Those in the British government naive enough to believe that the Agreement, without more, will somehow stabilise the relationship between the Republic, Britain and Northern Ireland have fallen into the deepest trap that contemporary Irish politics holds for the unwary "mainland" politician ó the delusion that, short of a united Ireland, there can be a permanent compromise with Irish nationalism in its current virulent and triumphalist phase.
"The moment we distinctly conceive that the House of
On 27th November 1985, the British House of Commons voted by 473 votes to 37 to indorse the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Of the 47 votes cast against the Agreement, 13 were recorded by Members of Parliament who were anti-unionist and who believed that the Agreement did not go far enough in favour of Irish nationalism.
In spite of the unanimous opposition of unionist M.P.s who protested bitterly that the Agreement represented an attack on the vital interests of the unionist community, their colleagues from other parts of the United Kingdom insisted that they better knew what was needed in the Province.
In recent years the small number of unionist members at Westminster has been skillfully deployed and, indeed, has influenced the fate of government when the main parties were more evenly divided. Yet on 27th November1985 these things counted for nothing. The Agreement was accorded the largest majority anyone can remember.
Looking back down the tunnel of Irish history with fresh eyes, it is now possible to discern the reality that Northern Ireland has since its inception been quite deliberately excluded from the mainstream of British political life. The crucial exclusion lies not in Parliament itself (where Ulster M.P.s have exactly the same rights and privileges as others) but in the party system which is fundamental to British democracy. None of the main political parties organise in Northern Ireland and, therefore, none are concerned about winning or losing seats there. None are concerned with majority opinion in the Province because it contains no potential votes.
It is often assumed, mistakenly, that tyranny is the exclusive preserve of the despot. Not so. Even in a democracy a group can be tyrannized if its voice in relation to its own interests and destiny is constantly over-ruled by an unheeding majority. In such a situation, irrelevant parliamentary representation becomes a bizarre parody of liberty ó the appearance of participation in the democratic process but, in reality, no power whatsoever to influence decisions.
Unionists must now decide whether they wish to settle for the peculiar form of tyranny perpetrated by the system by which they are presently governed. The alternatives are not without difficulty. Devolved government for Northern Ireland has been made an impossible conundrum by the British government indorsing S.D.L.P. requirements which unionists cannot meet. These requirements are not limited to institutionalised power sharing, but include "an Irish dimension" (presently, the retention of the Anglo-Irish Conference). Independence, apart from being precluded by the Anglo-Irish Agreement, is a certain recipe for civil war.
Whatever was intended for the Anglo-Irish Agreement, it has already served not only to arouse Irish nationalist expectations but also to render all the options open to unionists even less attainable than they were before. In doing so, it has dangerously devalued constitutional politicians on the unionist side and has reinforced the sense of being under siege prevalent in the unionist community.
That unionists must now begin an inevitably painful process of re-examining their position in relation to the other groups inhabitating the British Isles is beyond question. That this process may involve consideration of previously unpalatable concepts is a strong possibility. But one thing is clear ó unionism can never accept the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 because to do so would be certain to eventually consign the rump of todayís unionist community to the role of an insignificant and neutered minority in a unitary Irish state.
THE ANGLO-IRISH AGREEMENT 1985
Agreement between the Government of Ireland
The Government of Ireland and the Government of the united Kingdom:
Wishing further to develop the unique relationship between their peoples and the close co-operation between their countries as friendly neighbours and as partners in the European community;
Recognising the major interest of both their countries and, above all, of the people of Northern Ireland in diminishing the divisions there and achieving lasting peace and stability;
Recognising the need for continuing efforts to reconcile and to acknowledge the rights of the two major traditions that exist in Ireland, represented on the one hand by those who wish for no change in the present status of Northern Ireland and on the other hand by those who aspire to a sovereign united Ireland achieved by peaceful means and through agreement;
Reaffirming their total rejection of any attempt to promote political objectives by violence or the threat of violence and their determination to work together to ensure that those who adopt or support such methods do not succeed;
Recognising that a condition of genuine reconciliation and dialogue between unionists and nationalists is mutual recognition and acceptance of each otherís rights;
Recognising and respecting the identities of the two communities in Northern Ireland, and the right of each to pursue its aspirations by peaceful and constitutional means;
Reaffirming their commitment to a society in Northern Ireland in which all may live in peace, free from discrimination and intolerance, and with the opportunity for both communities to participate fully in the structures and processes of government;
Have accordingly agreed as follows:
Officials may meet in subordinate groups. Membership of the Conference and of sub-groups shall be small and flexible. When the Conference meets at Ministerial level an Irish Minister designated as the Permanent Irish Ministerial Representative and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland shall be joint Chairmen. Within the framework of the Conference other Irish and British Ministers may hold or attend meetings as appropriate: when legal matters are under consideration the Attorneys General may attend. Ministers may be accompanied by their officials and their professional advisers: for example, when questions of security policy or security cooperation are being discussed, they may be accompanied by the Commissioner of the Garda Siochana and the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary; or when questions of economic or social policy or cooperation are being discussed, they may be accompanied by officials of the relevant Departments. A Secretariat shall be established by the two Governments to service the Conference on a continuing basis in the discharge of its functions as set out in this Agreement.
E: LEGAL MATTERS, INCLUDING THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE
CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
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