Northern Ireland's Relationship with Other Regions of the ... - CAIN
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Northern Ireland's Relationship with Other Regions of the ... - CAIN


ARTICLE 1 OF THE ANGLO-IRISH ACT OF UNION PROVIDES:“... T he kingdo ms of Great Britainand Ireland... shall... for ever afterbe united in one k in g do m, b y thena me of the United Kingdo m ofGreat Britain and Ireland...”Act of Union bet weenGreat Britain and Ireland, 1800

1800 1920This Act united GreatBritain and Ireland ina political settlementunder the crown andone Parliament.It removed thecorrupt IrishParliament, knownas Gratten’sParliament, and gavethe Irish people avoice in the UnitedKingdom Parliamentat Westminster.The Government ofIreland Act, after violencefrom Irish republicans,partitioned Irelandestablishing a devolvedParliament in NorthernIreland and a DublinParliament with 26counties seceding fromthe Union but remainingin the Commonwealth.Northern Ireland’s place inthe union was guaranteedby this Act. The 1998Belfast Agreementrepealed it tearing thatguarantee asunder.1949 1972 1973 1998 ?Following the Irish FreeState becoming theRepublic of Ireland andleaving theCommonwealth theWestminster Parliamentpassed the question ofthe status of NorthernIreland to the NorthernIreland Parliament.The Ireland Act 1949made it clear thatNorthern Ireland remainspart of the UnitedKingdom and could notcease to be without theconsent of the Parliamentof Northern Ireland.In practice this wouldhave required a vote ofboth the House ofCommons and Senatein Northern Ireland.With the prorogationof the Northern IrelandParliament in 1972 therole of the Parliamentin determining thestatus of Northern Irelandalso fell.The Northern Ireland(Border Poll) Act 1972provided for a referendumto be held which resultedin an overwhelmingmajority in favour ofthe Union.In the absence of devolution,The Northern Ireland ConstitutionAct 1973 repeated the status ofNorthern Ireland and passed theresponsibility for any change tothat status to the people ofNorthern Ireland in a Border Poll.In the absence of devolution thisis an important safeguard for theunionist community. Such a pollwas to be called by the Secretaryof State but was not to take placemore often than every 10 years.No poll ever took place underthis provision and it was notspecifically spelt out what wouldhappen if there was a vote forchange in a Border Poll.Following the Belfast Agreementin 1998 the position wascompletely destabilised.A Border Poll would not be heldto demonstrate the strength forthe Union within the communitybut only where it was felt likelythat a majority of people couldvote to cease to be a part of theUnited Kingdom.The gap between polls was alsoreduced to every seven years.Such a provision is a recipe forunnecessary instability andtension within the community.As part of a durable settlementthere must be constitutionalcertainty. Arrangementswhich will ensure that thecommunity can haveconfidence for the future.With no prospect ofconstitutional change stabilityshould be maximised byaccepting this reality for ageneration and introducinga moratorium on Border Pollsfor 30 years.In the event of functioningdevolution, responsibility forthe triggering of a border poll,after the thirty year period ofstability should be passed tothe Assembly.45

INTRODUCTION:CONSTITUTIONALCERTAINTY -THE KEY TO PROGRESSThe Belfast Agreement was not a settlement of the issuespertaining to Northern Ireland.It was a process towards a united Ireland not a settlementwithin the United Kingdom. Moreover it was a charter forongoing concessions to those associated with terrorism.It remains the firmly held conviction of the DUP that the Union will continueto provide the firmest foundation for long-term stability in Northern Ireland.We contend that there can be no change in the status of Northern Ireland asan integral part of the UK without the consent of the people of NorthernIreland alone. It is vital that the people of Northern Ireland have confidencethat the arrangements which are put in place amount to a settlement andcannot be altered without the agreement of the people of Northern Ireland.The people of Northern Ireland will never be able to be at ease with oneanother until they are satisfied that their future is in their own hands. Unlessthere is a stable, legally enforceable framework under which all can beprotected there will continue to be uncertainty.A cast iron guarantee:Constitutional certainty is the keyto unlocking the relationships bothwithin Northern Ireland and withthe Republic of Ireland.67

SETTLEMENTNOT PROCESSUnder the arrangements endorsed by the Belfast Agreement the Secretary ofState for Northern Ireland has the authority to cause a referendum to be heldon Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom based on whether healone thinks that there may be a wish to change that status.This action commences a seven year cycle of plebiscites. We submit that thisprocess will breed unnecessary uncertainty and instability and damage theenvironment within which people in Northern Ireland can work together.We believe that the best way in which astable environment can be guaranteedfor the people of Northern Ireland is forall the participants in the processto accept that there willbe no change in thestatus of Northern Irelandand that the firstopportunity for any referendumon the status of Northern Irelandwill be in 30 years time.SOLEMNCONSTITUTIONALCONTRACTCREATING A CONTEXT FOR STABILITYIN NORTHERN IRELANDSOLEMN CONSTITUTIONAL CONTRACTThere should be a solemn constitutional contractentered into by the leaders of all parties who aspireto involvement in Government whereby, withoutprejudice to long-term aspirations, there would bean unequivocal acceptance that the constitutionalstatus of Northern Ireland within the Union would beunalterable for a generation and any change thenwould be subject to the people of Northern Irelandalone determining that change.The reality is that there is no possibility of there being a majority of people in NorthernIreland voting in favour of a united Ireland in the foreseeable future. However, co-operationwould be much more freely entered into in a context where this issue was put beyond anydoubt for a given time period.We believe that for a period of say thirty years there should be no Border Poll which couldprecipitate a change in the status of Northern Ireland nor any change in the agreedinstitutions and structures without a Key Vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly. In theevent of functioning devolution responsibility for the triggering of a Border Poll after thethirty year period of stability should be passed to the AssemblyThe solemn constitutional contract would create a context for stability and positiverelations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and could transforminter-party and community relationships in Northern Ireland.Constitutional certainty is the key to unlocking the relationships bothwithin Northern Ireland and with the Republic of Ireland.89

NORTHERNIRELAND’SRELATIONSHIPSWITHIN THEBRITISH ISLESNORTHERN IRELANDASSEMBLYTHE DÁILTHE SCOTTISHPARLIAMENTISLE OF MANMeetingsduring Devolution65NorthSouthMinisterialCouncil10BritishIrishCouncilSETTING THE SCENEUnder the Belfast Agreement the reality is that the East West relationship wassecondary to the North South relationship.This proved to be the case in practice.We believe that it is in the interests of all of the peoples of the British Isles, havingmany common interests, to increase co-operation for the benefit of all.There are presently two sets of Strand Three arrangements, the British Irish Counciland the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference. The British Irish Council metinfrequently and its role was substantially less than that of the North South MinisterialCouncil. Given Northern Ireland’s position as part of the United Kingdom it is importantthat its relationships with other regions within the British Isles are properly recognised.The British Irish Intergovernmental Conference is the successor to the Anglo IrishIntergovernmental Conference. Its failing is its isolated function involving the BritishGovernment and the Government of the Republic of Ireland alone outside the umbrellaof the totality of the relationships. This has led to a lack of transparency, accountabilityand has at times created suspicion.We believe that there should be a greater recognition of the importance of theBritish Isles context.There has been a significant imbalance in the number of meetings on the North Southaxis and the East West axis. During devolution there were 65 meetings of the NorthSouth Ministerial Council and only 10 meetings of the British Irish Council.Self-evidently to unionists Northern Ireland’s relationshipwith the rest of the United Kingdom is significantly moreimportant than the relationship with the Republic of Ireland.NATIONAL ASSEMBLYFOR WALESCHANNEL ISLANDSSelf-evidently to unionists Northern Ireland’s relationship with the rest of the UnitedKingdom is significantly more important than the relationship with the Republic ofIreland. This is the case not only because of the natural links between unionists inNorthern Ireland and people in Great Britain but also because it is in the economicinterests of all the people of the Province.There are many issues which affect all the people who live within the British Islesand it is in the interests of all to work together. Equally there are issues which willaffect only some of the regions within the British Isles, but not others. It is importantthat there is a suitable forum for such issues to be addressed on a bilateral ormultilateral basis.10 11WESTMINSTERPARLIAMENT

REMEDYING THE PROBLEMAs the European Union becomes more diverse in its membership and interests it will inevitably be lessfocussed on the needs and concerns of the British Isles. There are clearly many issues which affect theBritish Isles much more particularly than other parts of Europe. It is important, respecting theconstitutional position of all involved, that mechanisms for dealing with such issues are devised.The arrangements created under the Belfast Agreement did not fully meet that requirement.Theappropriate arrangements, based on practical need, can however be to the benefit of all people inthe British Isles• We propose the formation of a council encompassing the totalityof relations within the British Isles.• We believe that the relationship between the British Government andGovernment of the Republic of Ireland should be addressed within thecontext of the council.• We believe that there should be a Secretariat created to look after therelationships between the various regions and Governments in theBritish Isles. This body would be fully resourced and could organise and staffnot only council meetings but also bilateral or multilateral meetings.• Plenary meetings for all participants could be arranged at regularintervals to deal with issues which affect all participants.• The majority of the work is more likely to concern issueswhich affect only two or more of the areas within theBritish Isles. The Secretariat would co-ordinate such contacts.• Given Northern Ireland’s pivotal role in the British Isles thisSecretariat should be based here.• In the context of these arrangements a British IslesParliamentary body should be established.12 13

THE RELATIONSHIPBETWEENNORTHERN IRELANDAND THE REPUBLICOF IRELANDAccountability:We will not support any relationship with theRepublic of Ireland which is not fully accountableto the people of Northern Ireland through theirelected representatives in the Assembly.NORTHERN IRELANDASSEMBLYTHE DÁILTHE KEY TO PROGRESS –ACCOUNTABILITY,ACCOUNTABILITY,ACCOUNTABILITYAccountability of all arrangements to the Northern IrelandAssembly and accountability of all arrangements in the Assemblyis a fundamental precondition to any relationship with theRepublic of Ireland. We will not support any relationship withthe Republic of Ireland which is not fully accountable to thepeople of Northern Ireland through their elected representativesin the AssemblyA successful resolution of the arrangements concerningthe internal governance of Northern Ireland (Strand One)is a critical prerequisite to final agreement on NorthSouth issues. Arrangements which are not accountable tothe people of Northern Ireland will not be acceptable. Howeverarrangements which render the relationship accountable to thepeople through their representatives in the Northern IrelandAssembly will create a solid basis for good interaction.A firm foundation of mutual respect, accountabilityand value for money for the people of Northern Irelandwill provide an environment in which the DUP willengage positively and operate agreed arrangementsto consult, co-operate and implement approved actionon a North South axis.Unless there is a resolution of Strand One arrangements whichensures the primacy of the Northern Ireland Assembly in anydecision making process a satisfactory resolution of Strand Twoissues will be impossible.14 15

RECOGNISING NORTHERN IRELAND’SCONSTITUTIONAL POSITIONA critical element in the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland isthe acceptance of Northern Ireland’s constitutional position by the Republic of Ireland.The Belfast Agreement provided that the participants to the Agreement:“recognise that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, byagreement between the two parts respectively and without externalimpediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis ofconsent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring abouta united Ireland, if that is their wish, accepting that this right must beachieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consentof a majority of the people of Northern Ireland;”(Belfast Agreement Constitutional Issues paragraph 1(ii)The constitution of the Republic of Ireland should not claim thepeople of Northern Ireland any more than it should have claimedits territory.This complex and convoluted formula falls short offully respecting the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.OPPORTUNITIES FORPROGRESSIt is important that any two neighbouring countries have a relationship which can be ofbenefit to both. Clearly in a situation where a substantial number of people in NorthernIreland feel a special tie to the Republic of Ireland this requirement will be particularlyrelevant. We believe that it is in the interest of people in Northern Ireland to co-operatewith the Republic of Ireland on a range of issues.Equally, of course, Northern Ireland will be in direct competition with the Republic of Irelandon other issues. We must also be conscious of the fact that whilst what happens to the southof Northern Ireland is important, what happens to the east is in most cases more important.We are committed to participating fully in any arrangements betweenNorthern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland which we agree as a result of thetalks process. We will seek a similar undertaking from other parties in relationto the East West relationship.There must be a clear commitment to and acceptance of the constitutionalposition of Northern Ireland. This should be reflected not only in words butin deeds.The role of the Republic of Ireland in recent years has been to act within the axis of thePan-Nationalist front. This cannot continue to be the case. If the Republic of Irelandis to play a role in the process then there is a clear onus on it to accept that thefuture status of Northern Ireland is a matter for the people of Northern Ireland.The principle of consent should make this position clear beyond any doubt.Co-operation and Competition:In some instances, co-operation with the Republic of Ireland will be to thebenefit of the people of Northern Ireland. In other instances, competitionwill be in our best interest.16 17

IMPLEMENTINGOUR MANDATED POLICYOver the past few years we have made a number of policy pronouncements about ourrelationship with the Republic of Ireland. The full details can be found in our policydocuments but the key points include -FIVE TESTSFOR ARRANGEMENTSIn the talks process, in this area, we do not believe that it is beneficial to be overlyprescriptive as to the arrangements which could be agreed. However, we believethat any arrangements should be judged against the following five tests -• any relationship with the Republic of Ireland should be fully accountableto the Assembly,• agreed arrangements must be of practical benefit and be delivered in aneffective and efficient way.1:Are they in the interestsof Northern Ireland?2:3:4:5:Are they of practical benefit ormerely politically motivated?Are they accountable to theNorthern Ireland Assembly?Do they respect Northern Ireland’sconstitutional position within the UK?Do they representvalue for money?18 19

A NEW DIRECTION -CHANGING THESTATUS QUOThe Belfast Agreement providedfor two sets of institutions in this area -the North South Ministerial Counciland the all-IrelandImplementation Bodies.Our opposition to theNorth South Ministerial Councilwas, amongst other things,based on the fact that itwas not accountableto the Assembly.We opposed the all-Ireland Implementation Bodies, amongstother things on the basis that they were not accountable tothe Assembly and were not value for money for the taxpayer.We opposed the overall set of proposals because they weremainly driven by the desire to achieve Irish unity.• In Strand One we proposed the creation of an Efficiency Commission.We believe a similar body should be created to consider arrangementsin Strand Two and to examine the role, remit and value for money of theexisting Implementation Bodies.This Commission should be time-limitedto ensure that the issues are addressed expeditiously.• The membership of any existing bodies should also be reviewed.• Any and all arrangements should be subject to the scrutiny ofthe Assembly.• Nominations in the North South context would have to be agreed on across-community basis. This would vary depending on which model ofadministration was in place in Northern Ireland.Ministers who attendedthe Council merely answeredquestions in the Assemblybut the Assembly hadno substantive role ordecision-making capability.Any and all arrangements in the North South Ministerial Council and the all-IrelandImplementation Bodies should be benchmarked against the five tests set out on page 19.20 21

INFORMAL CONTACTSOutside the formal institutions there were also contacts between Ministers inNorthern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.We believe that most of our concerns in Strand Two can be resolved if ourproposals for accountability in Strand One are accepted.We contend that if all power is devolved to the Assembly, and exercised theresubject to Key Votes, a safeguard is available to both sections of thecommunity. For unionists there would be no unacceptable development ofthe North South institutions and no decision could be taken in defiance of theunionist community, just as the same provision presents nationalists with asafeguard within the Assembly.RECIPROCAL RIGHTSWe believe that there should be the same rights for people who regardthemselves as British living in the Republic of Ireland as exist for people whoregard themselves as Irish living in Northern Ireland. These should includecultural, language, employment and citizenship rights.This, we believe is asensible way to proceed.We also believe that the Republic of Ireland should establish a ConsularOffice in Belfast to recognise the nature of the constitutional relationship.This would be in line with the practice adopted in other regional centreswithin the United Kingdom.PROTOCOLSIt is essential that in all dealings between the two countries proper protocols,which respect the constitutional position are established and maintained.Such protocols will help provide a smoother relationship and are not designedto hinder co-operation.2223

KEY TO SUCCESS1:Allarrangements must beaccountable to the people ofNorthern Ireland. The realityfor nationalists is thatarrangements whichunionists support and inwhich they have confidenceare much more likely toproduce greater co-operationbetween the two countries.2:Whilstunionists continueto seek to limit the degreeof all-Ireland co-operationfor its own sake ornationalists seek tomaximise it for its ownsake the process will notbe satisfactory for eithercommunity.should acceptthat whilst their views cannotbe ignored in Northern3:NationalistsIreland, equally the viewsof the majority populationcannot be ignored.4:For as long as unionistsoppose arrangementswhich do not pass thetests set out on page 19,nationalist desires forgreater co-operation in thisarea will be frustrated.24 25

Our plans for internal governance are predicatedon the continued functioning of the institutionsin some form in all circumstances. However, as asafeguard there should be explicit recognition thatany arrangements between Northern Ireland andthe Republic of Ireland could not continue in theabsence of devolution in Northern Ireland.Arrangements which are agreed in negotiationsthen freely and willingly entered into offer the besthope to benefit the people of Northern Ireland.The greater the willingness of the Republicof Ireland to respect and accept the positionof unionists the more the relationshipbetween the two countries can be normalisedand built upon.A major advantage of our Strand One proposalsis that there would be no further suspension ofdevolution. We do not however believe thatarrangements should function prior to anyrestoration of devolution.We wish to see agreed institutions createdwhich can provide the best environment forco-operation between Northern Ireland andthe Republic of Ireland. Such arrangementswill avoid the risk of frustrating the workof the institutions as occurred under theBelfast Agreement.26 27

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