Realities of the Belfast Agreement


Sir, – Simon Hoare describes the 1998 “Good Friday” Agreement as a “miracle” whose “sanctity” must be maintained (“I hope UK and Ireland have not gone past the point of no return”, Opinion & Analysis, October 12th).

Perhaps so in the sense that it appeals to the credulous.

A witness more grounded in the reality of politics in Northern Ireland might observe that the deal did not “bring peace” so much provide cover for the sanitisation of Sinn Féin.

Voting behaviour has become increasingly polarised since the Belfast Agreement, reflecting the requirement for MLAs to designate as unionist or nationalist; the Executive and Assembly have been suspended five times, and have not operated for almost half the period; with the vocal exception of Jim Allister, there is no Opposition to hold the Executive to account; and the First Minister and Deputy First Minister have failed to reach joint decisions even on basic business matters such as a new head for the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

As Dennis Kennedy has pointed out, the Belfast Agreement provides for only one permanent “solution” to the Northern Ireland problem, namely a referendum on a united Ireland.

And if you believe that that in itself actually will solve the problem, you are moving beyond mere faith into cloud cuckoo land.

Meantime, Northern Ireland is doomed to being governed by two parties pulling in opposite directions to the detriment of us all. And Sinn Féin can collapse the institutions whenever it calculates that it is in its interest to do so. – Yours, etc,