Largest party at Westminster must be able to form pacts

Morning View
Morning View

A campaign to challenge in the courts the Conservative Party deal with the DUP to prop up the government has passed its initial fundraising target of £20,000.

The crowdfunding effort to sustain the legal action, which is being led by the Green Party’s Ciaran McClean, has set a fresh target of £100,000.

Mr McClean is free of course to attempt any legal challenge that he wishes, assuming that it is entirely funded privately.

His supporters and the donors in the case are similarly free to donate their money as they see fit.

Constitutional and international lawyers will examine the arguments in this action, which is being advanced on the basis that the Tory-DUP pact “flies in the face of the Good Friday Agreement”. We hope, however, that the case fails.

It would be absurd if the largest political party in the House of Commons was unable to form an alliance with a smaller group of MPs based in one part of the UK on supposed equality grounds. It would tear up parliamentary convention and would immediately render Northern Ireland MPs of lesser value than the 632 MPs in the rest of the UK.

But imagine, for example, that a lawyer was indeed able to persuade judges that this was in fact a correct reading of the outworkings of the 1998 Belfast Agreement. In that case then it would be clear that the agreement must be rescinded.

For many years there has been a fundamental contradiction in the general approach as to what is and is not acceptable vis a vis Dublin and London and politics at Stormont.

Governments in the Republic of both main parties have been relentless, albeit subtle, persuaders for nationalist concerns. London governments, on the other hand, say nothing when Dublin criticises supposed British or unionist failures.

This, gradually, has begun to change. First David Cameron’s, and now Theresa May’s, governments have made clear that they are not, for example, neutral on the Union. With the Union under threat, this support is necessary and welcome.