participants in the multi-party negotiations believe that their document ‘offers
a truly historic opportunity for a new beginning’ and talk of a ‘fresh
start’ on the basis of ‘partnership, equality and mutual
respect’ within the six-county area, between North and south and
between these islands. However, as we shall see,
is very much an unequal junior ‘partner’ in these relationships as
ministerial Cross-Border Institutions with Executive Powers (CroBIEPs) and
the British-Irish Ministerial Council will wield all of the real power in
reaffirmation of all the parties to ‘exclusively peaceful means’
to resolve political differences is most welcome - if it can be taken at
face value. We note that all of the parts of this agreement are designed
so as to be interlocking and to be interdependent. This precludes, for
example, the Assembly ignoring the North-South ministerial council.
Instead of proper self-determination, the new Assembly will only be able
to operate by the leave of the North-South Council and the British-Irish
British and Irish governments have committed themselves to sign a new
with regard to its
status. However, the ‘choices’ open are just two - a conditional
version of the
or a sovereign united
There is no mention of another option- an independent sovereign
The purported recognition of the right of ‘the people of the island
by the agreement of the two parts’ to exercise self-determination on
the basis of free consent subject to the agreement and consent of a
majority of the people of
’ is a
masterpiece of ambiguity.
seems that there is already a majority of people on ‘the
of Ireland' for a united Irish state. Their wish to incorporate the six counties
into their territory will be triggered once there is even a 50% + 1 vote
in favour of such a change. This makes
’s status as
part of the
conditional which is quite a difference from all the other parts. The
acknowledgement that it would be wrong to make any change in
Ireland ’s status
without the consent
of a majority seems grand as far as it goes but in fact a simple majority
is all that will be needed to effect such a transfer of sovereignty. We
note, however, that no such consent is needed for all sorts of
‘harmonising’ changes short of a full transfer of sovereignty to the
Leinster House regime.
1 (vi) provides for dual citizenship, so that residents of Northern
can choose to be either Irish or British citizens or both. This right
would transfer in the event of Irish unity but as
is denied the status of a nationality, Ulsterfolk living in their own
country can only be allowed to take Irish or British citizenship. Genuine
self-determination is ruled out.
’s status as
part of the United Kingdom
is formally put on a conditional basis. This legislation, if passed, would
provide for regular, seven-yearly polls to determine whether or not
should remain in
or join the Republic. No provision is made for a poll on any other option,
e.g. repartition or independence. The repeal of the Government of Ireland
Act 1920 is a permanent move, whereas the proposed changes to the Irish
Constitution will only come into effect if the full agreement is
implemented to the satisfaction of the Oireachtas - Leinster House.
Ulster Independence Movement called for the repeal of the Government of Ireland Act in 1996. We saw this in the context of agreed negotiated independence
and the parallel removal of
aggressive constitutional claim on the six counties. In effect, the Ulster
Independence Movement called both states to withdraw their claims to
sovereignty over our homeland. This is not the effect of the Mitchell
Agreement. Instead, we are to remain in a constitutional limbo until our
eventual formal expulsion from the
into a new All-Ireland state.
schedule which outlines the procedure for holding regular polls on the
future status of
Secretary of State to direct the holding
of a poll on any given date if it appears likely that a majority of voters
‘would express a wish that
should cease to
be part of the
and ‘form part of a united
Ireland’. It is not clear how this ‘appears
likely’. Again, a majority could in theory wish to opt for an
but the Secretary of State could ignore their wishes.
three of this schedule in effect subjects Northern
’s status to
This will cause instability as everyone waits for the other shoe to fall.
The UIM has long favoured referenda on a number of crucial issues, but the
onus on calling a referendum should lie with the people - not the
Secretary of State. This would require a petition signed by a percentage
of electors in each parliamentary constituency.
AMENDMENTS TO THE IRISH CONSTITUTION
29 of the Constitution deals with the Irish state’s international
membership of the United Nations, the EEC and the European Union etc.
Paragraph 7:2 states that any institution established by the Agreement may
exercise its powers and functions ‘irrespective of all or any part of
the island of Ireland.’
This suggests that some of the present functions of the Oireachtas will be
taken over by such bodies. This could become a framework for an all-island
parliament to which the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Oireachtas would
proposal to amend Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution is long
overdue and, on the face of it, most welcome. It is regrettable that this
change is conditional on the establishment of all the institutions in the
Agreement. It should be noted, however, that the existence of these
articles prevented any formal joint exercise of authority or executive
powers as these conflicted with the ‘constitutional imperative’ of
Leinster House to govern all 32 counties.
amended version of Article 2 entitles everyone born on the ‘island of Ireland’
to be part of the ‘Irish nation’. This is fair enough and of itself is
no longer a claim on the territory of the six counties. It also recognises
the special affinity of the Irish nation with its diaspora. It is entirely
a matter for the Leinster House government to identify with Irish ethnic
minority groups in Ulster
and overseas and is fairly unobjectionable.
amended Article 3 is much more interesting and subtly ambiguous. In it,
the Ulster-Scots and Ulster-British are subsumed as ‘people who share
the territory of the
in all the diversity of their identities and traditions’ - in effect
different kinds of Irish people. The recognition that a united
should only come about with the consent of a majority of the people in
both jurisdictions is positive as is the admission that two jurisdictions
the proposed new Article 3:2 dealing with CroBIEPs allows such
institutions to exercise powers and functions ‘in respect of all or
any part of the island'. Before this amendment, the Oireachtas claimed
jurisdiction over the whole island but only made laws for the 26 counties
‘pending the reintegration of the national territory.’ Now the
Oireachtas will continue to be responsible for making laws in the 26
counties (until Irish unity comes about) but will have an input into those
cross-border bodies which will exercise power and functions in both
interesting change to Article 29 is the addition of Section 8 which now
to ‘exercise extra-territorial jurisdiction’ presumably in Northern
Ireland, through the
cross-border bodies set out in this Agreement.
constitutional changes will permit the Irish state to overcome the legal
barriers which have hitherto prevented its exercising joint authority over
the six counties. They do not ‘strengthen the
nor do they leave Ulsterfolk in peace to determine their own political
strand of the Agreement provides for a democratically-elected Assembly
Assembly is more like a colonial sub-assembly than a normal elected body
where the majority party or coalition of parties forms a government.
So-called ‘safeguards’ will be built in to any legislation to ensure
that all sections of the community can participate’ and that ‘key
decisions’ are taken on a ‘cross-community basis’.
lot of questions here are left in the air. Apart from the election of the
Chair of the Assembly, the First and Deputy First Minister, there is no
definition of ‘key decisions’. At least 40% of the members of unionist
and Irish nationalist designations present and voting will be needed to
swing any vote, or a majority of the members of each ‘designation’.
This is a recipe for paralysis in government. In addition, the requirement
to register a ‘designation of identity’ at the first meeting of the
Assembly is the formal institutionalisation of sectarianism.
note that there is no place for an opposition in this system. All
departmental chairs and ministerial posts will be allocated to the elected
parties on the basis of their party strengths under the d’Hondt system.
This opens up the likelihood of Sinn Féin ministers if that party decides
to end its former abstentionist
stance. Once such an appointment is made, it cannot be overturned except
on the ‘cross-community basis’ already outlined above.
note that the
reserves its rights to make laws for
although the Secretary of State, like a good colonial overlord, will deign
to ‘consult’ the Assembly on its proposals. The creation of a
consultative Civic Forum of business, trade union and voluntary
representatives could have been a positive thing if it were a properly
elected vocational senate of the great and the good. In effect though it
will be a colonial native council filled by yes men and women of the First
and Deputy First Ministers.
Ulster Independence Movement has no objection to cross-border cooperation
on an equal basis between the two states on this island. We do object to
the establishment of an embryonic all-island government. The Assembly in
is so entangled
with the North South Ministerial Council that it
cannot function alone. We strongly object to this. We note that the new
NSMC will have its own standing Secretariat staffed jointly by Irish and
civil servants as
well as a parliamentary forum which could serve
as an all-island parliament in waiting. The list of responsibilities for
the NSMC to take over leave very little left.
proposed ‘Council of the Isles’- the British-Irish Council - appears
to have no real functions. Apart from six-monthly meetings to discuss
matters of common interest, any member can opt not to participate in
anything the Council agrees. This is a luxury denied to the Northern
Ireland Assembly in Strand Two. The BIC appears to be a bone thrown to the
unionists to keep them happy.
British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference is a very different animal. It
maintains Anglo-Irish colonial oversight in recognition of what the
Agreement calls ‘the Irish government’s special interest in Northern
has a role in devolved matters through the NSMC and in reserved matters
such as security and law and order through the intergovernmental
conference. We note that this body will have a standing joint Secretariat
of officials. Maryfield may well be dead but Maryfield - the Next
Generation is to replace it. We note that the
administration will be invited only to ‘express views’ to the
intergovernmental conference, thus emphasising its subordinate role in the
new order of things. It is certainly not self-determination for the Ulster
people in any meaningful sense.
|RIGHTS, SAFEGUARDS AND OPPORTUNITIES
list of rights and liberties listed in the Agreement are largely unobjectionable.
Freedom of thought, religious expression and the right to seek
peaceful constitutional change and to be free from sectarian harassment are
very important to all citizens as also ought to be the right to free association.
The Ulster Independence Movement is concerned about the intention
to make public authorities obliged by law to ‘promote equality of opportunity’
in various fields. This looks likely to bring in American-style quotas,
‘set-asides’ and the like. This has poisoned labour relations in
is not scare-mongering. The British government is to bring in a new super-quango
- the Equality Commission - to replace the present Fair Employment
and Equal Opportunities commissions, the Disability Council and the
recently formed Commission for Racial Equality. One issue already due for
‘rapid progress is ‘a new more focused Targeting Social Needs
a range of measures aimed at combating unemployment and progressively eliminating
the differential in unemployment rates between the two communities'.
How can this be achieved except through formal quotas and set-aside
Ulster Independence Movement welcomes any regional development
proposed new Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will keep a watchful
eye on the state’s treatment of its residents. It does not seem to have
any remit to deal with human rights violations by paramilitary
organisations including those affiliated to political parties represented
a brief nod to Ulster-Scots and the languages of more recent immigrant
, we have
no problem with this in principle. However, instead of bringing all the
. We feel that the Irish language should
receive parity of esteem with
Scottish Gaelic in
and Welsh in
- as should Ulster-Scots
itself. Both of these related languages have been
|DECOMMISSIONING OF ARMS
inclusion of this section is merely as a sop to the unionists. It got them
any influence they may have, to achieve the decommissioning of all paramilitary
arms within two years’ of a ‘Yes’ vote in the forthcoming referendum.
This is meaningless nonsense. All the participants have to do at the
end of this period is to say that they tried to get the groups to decommission
but unfortunately were unable to succeed. Nobody could do anything to say
that they did not try.
|SECURITY AND JUSTICE
in the Ulster Independence Movement would dearly love above all to see
|POLICING AND PRISONERS
agree that the police ought to be professional, effective, fair and
free from partisan political control. For most law and order issues, this
of the RUC. However, no police force is popular with lawbreakers. The Royal
Ulster Constabulary is no exception. Unlike police officers in other parts
of the world, RUC constables have been active targets for terrorist
the RUC has been subjected to a massive international propaganda onslaught
of vilification over the past three decades. It seems to us that the proposed
‘independent commission’ on policing is at best likely to undermine the
role of the RUC. The most likely option is to abolish the RUC altogether. We
wonder if the new police force will be ‘more representative in terms of
of the community as a whole’ by recruiting former IRA volunteers as constables.
Ulster Independence Movement has grave doubts about releasing all prisoners
who are members of groups observing a ceasefire and who have been convicted
of scheduled offences. All these are likely to be back in the community
by June 2000. Some of these prisoners have committed acts so heinous
throughout our ongoing conflict that they deserve to be treated as war criminals
rather than as simple ‘prisoners of war’. No such prisoner ought to be
even if the conflict is over.
Ulster Independence Movement has examined the Mitchell Agreement as outline
above. We have recognised some positive aspects to the agreement but these
are not sufficient for us to recommend a ‘Yes’ vote. This agreement
it will not recognise the right of the
May 22nd, 1998
we will call on our supporters to vote ‘No’ in the referendum.
text of the Agreement