This website is a forum for political debate and the exchange of ideas. Unless indicated, the opinions expressed in any article, commentary, argument or review is solely that of the author and not necessarily that of the publisher.

 Home Page Reviews Ulster comment  Archives  International issues   Links   Conversation with Rabbi Schiller  FAQs   Open Forum  For Sale  Obituaries   Culture and Identity

'Framework' or Gallows?
A look at the Anglo-Irish Framework document

You may push and you may shuv 
But I'm hanged if I'll be druv. [old Ulster rhyme]

THE WAITING IS OVER! The joint framework document for Ulster which the London and Dublin governments have spent two years in drawing up has finally, been published to a chorus of virtually universal approval on all sides. 

Tony Blair and Paddy Ashdown, normally ready to lambast the government on any other issue, were fulsome in their praise of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and all their works and in their deprecation of anyone who even questioned such conventional `wisdom'. This is one occasion when the true despotism of the parliamentary system is evident for all to see. It is not genuine democracy when parliament and all its institutions gang up on a small geographically isolated minority of its citizens. 

The same thing happened in the media. .Radio and television hailed the new Anglo-Irish triumph. All the British and Irish newspapers with the notable exceptions of the Sunday Telegraph and the Belfast News Letter - were equally supportive of the new orthodoxy. 

In Ulster itself, the document was welcomed by the Alliance Party (naturally!), the SDLP, the Institute of Directors, the local branch of the CBI, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Workers' Party and Sinn Féin. On the other hand, the document was fiercely criticised by Dr Ian Paisley's DUP. The official Unionist Party also criticised the document, although they did at yeast wait until it was published. So what is in the 37 pages of convoluted prose? It proposes:

* A new 90-seat Assembly with certain legislative and executive powers.

* Fixed term elections using Proportional Representation . *All-party Assembly committees.

* A panel of three members to `complement' the Assembly's work.

* New North/South bodies in which the British government would have permanent observer status only.

* A new and more broadly based Anglo-Irish agreement.

The publication of the document has lined up everyone against the unionists. They are now totally isolated, despite the `special relationship' which Jim Molyneaux thought he had with John Major and the Tory Party. Clearly, the unionists have learned nothing from history, and they seem doomed to go on making the same mistake - blind trust in Westminster politicians. In the course of some research I recently uncovered the words of W F McCoy who sought to gain a form of independence for Ulster in 1947. He told a unionist leader then that Ulster `was only a shuttlecock for the English politicians, to knock to and fro to suit their game and that, if it suited them, they would let us down.' He was not believed but his words have come true today. 

In his presidential address to the Sinn Féin ard fheis some days after the publication of the framework document, Gerry Adams rejoiced welcoming the fact that the 'political framework envisaged is clearly an all-Ireland one'. Mr Adams' strategy of building a common pan-Irish nationalist front has paid him great dividends. He is in the ascendant and the unionists will be blamed by all the world if there is any resumption of the armed conflict. 

John Major, of course pretends that he is a. unionist to try and gull the pro-British electorate into accepting his betrayal. He will not succeed. Ulsterfolk watch TV and read the papers and can see the difference between his avowal of a union he does believe in - that between England and Scotland and his empty professions regarding Ulster. There are strong cultural links between Eire and large parts of urban Scotland but we don't see much sign of Major giving Scotland a devolved assembly of any kind, much less one with a role for Dublin and joint bodies in which his government would only have observer status. 

If unionist political leaders cannot not see that the union is dead and gone they will deserve all they get. They can negotiate with the government all they like but they cannot make the British stay in Ulster when they are intent on walking away as soon as decently possible. Unlike Mr Molyneaux we are not surprised at the tone of the framework document. It's not so much a framework as a gallows! We in Third Way expected that the British government would seek to sell Ulster down the road to Dublin by installments. To accept the terms of this document is to us tantamount to a conditional surrender to the IRA's military and political campaign. 

However, we can see a way to bring peace to Ulster with justice for all. That way is for the British and Irish states both to disengage from Ulster, to repeal the Government of Ireland Act and delete Articles 2 & 3 from the Éire constitution in order to allow the people of Ulster to determine their own political destiny in an independent State. Unionism and republicanism have failed to unite the people of Ulster.

David Kerr 

home page


Copyright © 1990 - 2007 Third Way Publications. All rights reserved.