DUP Actions Found to be Unlawful
DUP Leader Jeffery Donaldson
Yesterday in a Belfast courtroom, the boycott by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of the North-South Ministerial Council was found to be unlawful.
The institutions of the Good Friday Agreement are like a three-legged stool. The operation of the Government, North-South Ministerial Council (All Ireland), and British Irish Council are interdependent and interlinked. Remove one leg and all the institutions are at risk.
In September the latest DUP Leader, Jeffery Donaldson said his party would boycott North-South working in protest at the British Government and EU agreement to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland known as the Irish Protocol.
He also threatened to pull his ministers out of Government and collapse the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement if his demand to scrap the Irish Protocol was not met by the end of October.
Attending the North-South Ministerial Council is an explicit commitment of the Ministerial Pledge of Office. A pledge that was affirmed by all DUP Ministers when taking up office.
Jeffery Donaldson in September set his party on a collision course with the Good Friday Agreement.
The court yesterday found that ministers would be held responsible for refusing to attend the meeting and that the court expected the ministers to act in accordance with the ruling.
The next meeting of the Council is planned for this week.
Speaking after the court ruling, Sinn Féin deputy President Michelle O'Neill said,
"The High Court has said it now expects DUP ministers to comply with their legal obligations. DUP ministers should now get on and do their jobs, act within the law and stop impeding progress and hampering government business.
They should bring their boycott of the north south bodies to an end immediately."
The timing of the threats of the DUP appears a deliberate attempt to influences the negotiations between the EU and British Government to resolve some of the implementation issues of the protocol.
This week the British government introduced new red lines and demands in this process. It appears that British Prime Minister Boris Johnston wants to continue his dispute with the EU. After all, it was the issue that got him elected.
It remains to be seen if the DUP will ignore the court and continue to act unlawfully and proceed with their threats to crash the Good Friday Agreement.
The Britsih Government is upping the ante with threats to crash the Irish Protocol and walk away from their obligations under international law.
This would be a course of action that President Biden and Congress made clear would have an impact on US / British relations and the prospect of any trade deal.