The Belfast Agreement is in some respects worse for unionism than the 1973 Sunningdale deal

A letter from Dr WB Smith:

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 4:26 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 6:23 pm
The Belfast Agreement of 1998 is worse for unionism and good government in a number of respects than the Sunningdale Agreement 25 years earlier

Ruth Dudley Edwards (‘Unionists should control agenda, not just react to it,’ March 30, see link below)makes a good case for unionists to control the agenda while resisting efforts to draw them into an unbalanced conversation about constitutional change arising from party politics in the Republic of Ireland.

But I have to take issue with her suggestion that the Belfast Agreement gave no substantial concessions to nationalists that were not in the Sunningdale agreement.

The Belfast Agreement is worse for unionism and good government in a number of respects, including these:

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Brian Faulkner was Ulster Unionist Party leader at the time of the Sunningdale deal, and he led the power sharing executive that followed in 1974

it provides for a referendum on leaving the UK, with simple majority voting

it makes coalition government mandatory and automatic

it does not include any authority to keep off the Stormont executive parties which are not committed in good faith to making Northern Ireland work

parties in the assembly have to designate as unionist or nationalist, which institutionalises sectarianism and thereby creates obstacles to making NI work for all

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those who do not designate are excluded from key decisions, including electing First Ministers, which benefits sectarian parties and is in itself discriminatory

the review of policing (ie. terminating the RUC)

the selected release of ‘qualifying prisoners’, undermining the rule of law

This is not a full list: for example, the creation of the Equality Commission and Human Rights Commission has tended to legitimate the nationalist narrative of oppression.

Dr WB Smith, Belfast 15

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