Monday 16 September 2019

Letters to the Editor: 'The UK and Ireland sacrificed a lot for peace - these Brexit games are undoing all that good'

History: Bertie Ahern, George Mitchell and Tony Blair after signing the Good Friday Agreement. Photo: Photocall Ireland
History: Bertie Ahern, George Mitchell and Tony Blair after signing the Good Friday Agreement. Photo: Photocall Ireland
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

A reminder to British parliamentarians whose responsibility it is to be interested. In signing up to the Good Friday Agreement, Ireland gave up its territorial claim to Northern Ireland by changing its Constitution.

In a referendum 94pc of the electorate in Ireland voted a resounding 'yes', agreeing that the Irish nation could be described as a community of individuals with a common identity rather than as a territory.

This change was intended to reassure unionists that a united Ireland would not happen without the consent of a majority of the Northern Ireland electorate.

Read this again: 94pc of Irish voters decided that our Constitution should define Ireland as a community of individuals.

Meanwhile the UK gave up its territorial claim over the whole of Ireland (which was still in place in 1998) by repealing its 1920 Government of Ireland Act. This act had partitioned Ireland (creating Northern Ireland in the process) while maintaining the UK's territorial rights over the whole of the island.

In the spirit and language of the Good Friday Agreement, both nations understood that the people of Northern Ireland had a right to self-determination. Thus, the issue of the UK's future sovereignty over Northern Ireland was deliberately left open-ended. This cannot have been easy for the UK.

Ireland and the UK gave up significant ground to bring peace to Northern Ireland, the happy result being that the Irish Border became virtually irrelevant. That is how negotiations work - everyone gives up something. The two parties shake hands.

The DUP was the only major political group in Northern Ireland to oppose the Good Friday Agreement. In my view, the British government is playing fast and loose with a hard Brexit which will unravel in a return to violence and tribalism on this island.

Alison Hackett

Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin

'Undemocratic' backstop claims wide of the mark

The claim put forward by London that the backstop is undemocratic, because post-Brexit Northern Ireland would have no say in the single market and customs union regulations (Dan O'Brien, Irish Independent, August 22), is not valid.

It ignores the role of the North-South Ministerial Council (NSMC) under the Good Friday Agreement, which states: "The Council to consider the European Union dimension of relevant matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programmes and proposals under consideration in the EU framework. Arrangements to be made to ensure that the views of the council are taken into account and represented appropriately at relevant EU meetings."

Clearly, this provision would have a whole new relevance post-Brexit and in the context of the operation of the backstop.

While the task of ensuring that the views of the NSMC were represented would fall to the Irish Government, no doubt the UK government will have its own consultation channels with the EU post-Brexit.

Of course, it is idle to talk of things being anti-democratic, when the institutions in Northern Ireland are being left unused at this of all periods.

Martin Mansergh

Friarsfield House, Co Tipperary

Sad to see neighbourly relations ruined publicly

The threat of Brexit has plunged Uk-Ireland relations to a new low in recent times. This is sad to see.

Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement 21 years ago in 1998, Anglo-Irish relations have had a steady rise in trust, a great spirit of co-operation at all levels, and a great willingness to work together for the greater good of both of our islands.

The many royal visits to our country by the British queen and Prince Charles, and our President Higgins visiting the UK, have helped in no small way to cement a much better relationship between our two countries in recent decades.

Unfortunately the Brexit negotiations, and in particular the insistence that the Irish backstop must go, has put a huge strain on that great spirit of neighbourliness and co-operation that has taken many years to painstakingly cultivate. Good neighbours look out for each other and depend on each other in times of crises. They do not squabble in public.

A serious falling-out will serve no purpose in either household, and must be avoided by sensible compromise on both sides. Otherwise both countries could lose heavily.

While the EU has Ireland's back to date, it would be ironic if when the going got tough in the Brexit talks, we were to get a back-stab on the backstop that would leave us with the scenario - having alienated our nearest neighbour - we tried our utmost to avoid: a hard Border.

Tom Towey

Cloonacool, Co Sligo

Leo is using the Border to keep UK in the EU

Kevin Doyle writes ('Dublin and Brussels know full well what no deal will mean - but won't say it out loud yet', Irish Independent, August 22): "In truth, if there was a genuine substitute for the backstop then surely it would have been in Ireland's interest to put it on the table a long time ago."

Not necessarily, because "a long time ago", namely November 26, 2017, Ireland's EU Commissioner, Phil Hogan, publicly demanded that in order to "solve" the Border "problem" the UK must stay under the rules of the EU customs union and the EU single market forever.

And, as Leo Varadkar has publicly stated, as far as the Irish Government is concerned, that would be the next best thing to the UK staying in the EU.

So it has been very much in Ireland's interest to make a mountain out of a molehill on the Border, and deny that there can be any solutions which do not involve the UK remaining subject to swathes of EU laws in perpetuity.

Which may seem fine from the Irish point of view, until it becomes apparent that Leo Varadkar has overplayed his hand, the British have been pushed too far, and it ends up with the UK leaving without any withdrawal agreement.

Dr DR Cooper

Berkshire, England

Passport Office and An Post are a dream team

I applied online for a passport renewal last Friday morning, and received it in the post on Monday morning.

I am not sure who to applaud more, the Passport Office or An Post?

Surely a record?

Gillian Gough O'Connor

Address with editor

No grudges here if we go our separate ways

May I please assure Isaac Connolly (Letters, August 22) that after Brexit I, for one, a Protestant Englishman, would still be happy to associate with every Catholic/Protestant/other Scotsman, Welshman and Irish man (and women) without any issue at all.

Ditto, if Scotland and Wales became independent and Ireland were reunited, I'd be more than happy.

Dominic Shelmerdine

London, UK

Ros's beautiful piece hit deep within my own soul

What a beautiful piece of writing from Roslyn Dee ('Kingdom brings golden childhood memories back to life', Irish Independent, August 22). It reflects exactly my own experience where visits to Co Kerry awaken recollections of childhood summer holidays there.

My summers were spent inland with my cousins on their farm a short distance from the village of Rathmore, a little off the beaten track between it and Killarney, near the foothills of a twin-peaked mountain known as the Paps.

I have lived a long life since those days, but when I go there I am transported back to a more innocent time when I was unburdened with the pressures and travails of adulthood and am reassured that there are some constants in a world where ephemera prevails.

I will be in Kerry next month and Ms Dee's piece reminds me of why I keep coming back.

Sean O'Donnell

Monkstown, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

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