“The Stormont House Agreement”
The Stormont House agreement was reached on 23rd December 2014.
The DUP and UUP had made a number of hard line statements and ‘stands’ prior to the agreement being reached- all of which proved to be little more than playing to the gallery.
In July 2014 the DUP and UUP were part of what was named the ‘graduated response’. This coalition promised much, it was in effect little more than a DUP bargaining tool to try and gain some leverage with welfare reform and corporation tax. The graduated response never materialised, not one bit of it. The DUP when pressed on the matter said they were waiting on the Secretary of State to appoint a panel to look into the issue. As a side note of today’s agreement we find out- from Martin McGuinness no less- that there will not be any panel looking at North Belfast. What is very clear is that the DUP, and UUP hanging on their coattails, have sold out the PUL community in North Belfast in return for Sinn Fein’s acceptance of welfare reform and an increased financial package from the British Government. This comes as no shock to me as I publically spoke out against the ‘graduated response’ from the moment it was muted. It was only ever going to be a means to an end for the DUP. No one should be shocked that the DUP have traded their own people for power and money.
The DUP also made very clear, in the form of a statement by North Down MLA Peter Weir (who of course left the UUP in opposition to the Belfast Agreement, of which the DUP are now the chief implementers) said that “no self respecting Unionist would discuss the internal affairs of Northern Ireland with the Irish Government.” This is strange because the Stormont House Agreement is a paper from both Governments, most of which deals with internal N.Ireland issues.
Of course Charlie Flanagan (Irish Gov) himself recently waxed lyrical about how he had been involved in some ninety meetings with the DUP and UUP.
To crystallise the issue, the DUP have accepted a paper from BOTH Governments. This is the same DUP that said “no self respecting Unionist” would engage with the Irish Government on internal N.Ireland issues.
The DUP and UUP also said there would be no discussion on parading. Then the DUP said there was discussion but not negotiation but yet unsurprisingly within the Stormont House Agreement we find that parading is included, albeit the British and Irish Governments have conveniently tried to provide the DUP some cover on that one by saying that the proposals stem from earlier talks. Even if this were the case (which it isn’t) it is still an undisputable fact that the DUP and UUP have entered into an agreement which includes proposals for parading. It is yet another epic U turn, but one that will have dire consequences for those within N.Ireland who still care about our culture and heritage.
• Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition commission
This body proposes to look at the issues of flags, identity, culture and tradition. The agreement says the following;
“In its work it will be guided by the principles of the existing agreements including parity of esteem.”
What this really means is that the commission will continue with the perverse notion of parity between Britishness and Irishness. This iniquitous notion was first contrived as part of the Belfast Agreement. It is fundamentally wrong and effectively grants those who identify themselves with a foreign country to receive cultural parity with those who declare loyalty to the legal constitutional position of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. It is a gross dilution of our British identity. The National flags and emblems of Northern Ireland express the legal status and sovereignty of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. There can be no other national flag or emblem than can be viewed in parity with the Union flag.
Despite repeated assurances that there would be no movement on parading, there is a section of the agreement devoted to parading.
The proposal is for parading to be devolved to the NI Assembly and for parading codes of conduct etc to be reviewed by OFMDFM. Given that OFMDFM is a shared office between the DUP, who have shown themselves to be completely incompetent and untrustworthy when it comes to representing the parading tradition in Northern Ireland and Sinn Fein/IRA who have spent a number of years contriving opposition to parades and setting up resident group fronts to agitate against loyal order and band parades, who in their right mind would grant Republicans any kind of veto over parading? Yet this is what the Stormont House Agreement proposes!
The parading proposal does not seek to give any prominence to the recognised and enshrined Human Rights of those parading but instead seeks to create a regulatory system where ‘respect’ will be the main consideration. This will effectively allow anyone who feels offended to have their view based on a level with the internationally recognised Human Rights of those parading. There is no human right not to be offended yet this parading proposal will enshrine an effective ‘right not to be offended’ via the backdoor. This will allow for- and give credence to- yet more contrived residents groups, who will be encouraged to spring up to be offended as part of Sinn Feins trojan horse cultural war strategy!
There is once again relevance put on local dialogue. This dialogue has been abused by Republicans and places bandsmen and loyal orders in a position of having to pander to every offended republican or nationalist. It is wholly unworkable. The European Convention of Human Rights articles should trump the manufactured and contrived right not to be offended, which has no lawful, judicial or internationally recognised precedent.
• The Past
Nowhere in the section devoted to the past is there any clear or agreed definition of a victim. This means that the Shankill Bomber Thomas Begely will be equated with the victims he created. This is just one example whereby the victim maker will be equated with their victim. This is wholly absurd and goes against the very principles of natural justice.
It will allow the IRA to present themselves as victims of circumstances rather than the cold blooded terrorists that they really are.
In section 28 of the document there is a commitment to further bring forward a proposal to provide a pension scheme to those victims physically injured in the troubles. Indeed innocent victims should be able to avail of this, however nowhere does the agreement make a distinction between innocent victims and the republican victim makers.
As with existing criminal cases the decision on whether to prosecute anyone charged by the newly proposed HIU (Historical Investigations Unit) will be made by the DPP for Northern Ireland. Given the fact that a huge amount of IRA terrorists were previous clients of the DPP and also given the fact that the current DPP previously corporately represented, at the request of Sinn Fein, the IRA On The Runs, how could the Unionist community have any confidence in the impartiality of decision making on historical cases brought to the PPS?
There is no reference as to how this new HIU unit will deal with the extremely live issue of the IRA On The Runs. The DUP claimed they would collapse the institutions if the letters were not rescinded, this has not happened and once again it seems that the DUP and UUP have been more than happy to sweep this issue under the carpet.
There is agreement on a new body titled the ICIR (Independent Commission on Information Retrieval).
This commission will collect information however this information will not be disclosed to the judiciary or law enforcement. It provides an effective amnesty for republican terrorists to tell their own self serving version of the truth. The IRA was granted similar immunity for the Smithwick tribunal and the sitting judge found that their ‘evidence’ was littered with self serving lies! Placing any trust in the IRA to tell the truth is nothing but sheer folly!
• Institutional reform
The agreement proposes to cut the number of MLA’s- but not until 2021.
In part 59 of the agreement there is the pretence that an opposition will be created. This is cloaked within the continuing system of mandatory coalition and will do nothing to remove Sinn Fein’s mandatory veto. The only time a normal system of Government will be allowed is if Sinn Fein decided to voluntarily surrender their mandatory veto and move into opposition. This is never likely to happen therefore the notion of an opposition is little more than a window dressing that has no real value. The un-democratic system of Government will remain, with the option of going into opposition for those who chose to do so. It will be opposition in name only as the undemocratic system of mandatory coalition will continue to guarantee Republicans a place in the heart of Government as of right!
Section 70 of the agreement creates provision for yet more North/South bodies. The DUP, who campaigned so strongly against the Belfast Agreement, now operate more North/South bodies than there ever was under the UUP and David Trimble.
The parties have also agreed to implement the ‘Together Building a United community strategy’ which has received little or no community support and within this strategy there provides yet more avenues for Sinn Fein to deploy their Trojan horses!
What is abundantly clear is that this document does nothing for Unionism and does nothing to protect the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. The agreement provides more avenues for Sinn Fein to exploit, gives them access to yet more staging posts and the logical trajectory of this agreement is for a renewed Trojan horse approach of Sinn Fein’s cultural war on the PUL community.
It is clear that the DUP have used the issue of North Belfast and the threat of a graduated response as leverage with the British Governement and Sinn Fein. This leverage has forced Sinn Fein into an epic climbdown in terms of implementing welfare reform (they will do anything to keep the ‘process’, which is kept alive by concessions to republicans, running) and has also ensured the devolution of corporation tax, all this however is at the expense of the cultural rights of the PUL community.
This agreement does nothing but strengthen the grip of the DUP and SF and furthermore it proposes to give Sinn Fein, and by extension the IRA, the keys to yet more levers of justice powers with the HIU, and ICIR and indeed proposes to grant them a veto over parading.
None of this is good news for the PUL community and once again the DUP have sold out on the grassroots Unionist community to ensure that the gravy train keeps flowing.
I surmise that future generations will look back on this agreement and view it alongside the Belfast, St Andrews and Hillsborough agreements as the saddest days Northern Ireland has ever known and indeed view it as a great betrayal of the Unionist people. History will not judge the implementers of this agreement kindly.