The More Things Change...
A Letter From Ireland
Greetings from Ireland. I’m home after 10 days in Canada. Last week in Ottawa, John Finucane joked he had to check Twitter before starting a political briefing to see who was the current British Prime Minister.
We now know that Rishi Sunak has become the leader of the Tory party and British Prime Minister. He promised, “integrity, professionalism and accountability”, stressing a change in approach from the last two Tory administrations.
However, his new cabinet looks alarmingly like those who came before. It includes in the key positions in the North of Ireland, two former chairs of the European Research Group, a group that advocated for the hardest possible Brexit.
He also appointed Johnny Mercer as Minister for Veterans Affairs. Mr. Mercer is one of the driving forces behind a bill to prevent victims of the conflict from having access to the courts, judicial investigations, and inquests. A bill to continue the coverup of the actions of British Forces during the conflict. A bill with no support from victims groups, any party in Ireland or the Irish Government.
There appears to be no policy change concerning Ireland.
President Biden called Prime Minister Sunak and addressed the global challenges they both faced while also reminding him of his obligations to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the need to negotiate a resolution with the EU on the implementation of the Brexit Protocol.
Sunak has reaffirmed the British government's proposal to set aside their existing agreement and international law and unilaterally impose his will. The more things change the more things stay the same.
The British Governments refusal to honor their deal with the EU has provided cover to the Democratic Unionist party to block the establishment of government in the North of Ireland. In May of this year, a majority voted for parties to get back to working together. Parties supporting the Protocol were a majority. Sinn Féin became the largest party. Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill became First Minister Elect.
The largest Unionist party, the Democratic Unionists, despite their name, refused to act on the democratic will of the people and blocked the establishment of government.
Left without Government for 6 months during a cost-of-living crisis we are now heading into an election to be held within the next 12 weeks. There is no indication that the DUP will honor the outcome of the next election.
A British Minister echoed the DUP threat that if the issue of the Protocol was not resolved to their satisfaction then there would be nothing to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
We are in for a trying time. Sinn Féin is confident that it can retain its advances in any election.
The future of this British Government is uncertain. It can continue to act unilaterally and undermine agreements and international law or it can do the right thing. Either way, it's too early to tell, but it will be very clear after an election if they continue to stall progress. If the DUP continues to block the establishment of government, the default will not be rule from London.
At St. Andrews, it was previously agreed that in the absence of working institutions, new partnership arrangements would be brought forward between the Irish and British Governments.
Things are progressing at a pace be sure to follow Friends of Sinn Féin for regular updates.
Have a great weekend.
Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.