Sinn Fein’s ‘joint stewardship’ plan breaches Good Friday Agreement

Parliament buildings at Stormont. Photo: Jonathan Porter/Presseye.
Parliament buildings at Stormont. Photo: Jonathan Porter/Presseye.

Sinn Fein calling for “joint stewardship” of Northern Ireland involving both the UK and Irish governments is at odds with their support for the Belfast Agreement, a DUP MLA has said.

Responding to comments made by Sinn Fein’s Mairtin O Muilleoir, Gordon Lyons said such a move would contravene the “principle of consent” enshrined in the 1998 agreement.

The last Northern Ireland devolved executive collapsed in January 2017 and, despite several intense rounds of negotiations between the DUP and Sinn Fein, has not been re-established.

Speaking on yesterday’s Nolan Show, Mr O Muilleoir said “we are definitely not going back to direct rule,” and added: “The next step is the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference to look at joint stewardship,” with a view to examining how the Irish and British governments could move forward.

Asked to explain what he meant by the term ‘joint stewardship,” the South Belfast MLA said: “Joint stewardship of this place, this region, of the six counties, of the north.”

Mr O Muilleoir went on to say: “The Irish government has been absolutely resolute on this – there will be no return to direct rule. The nationalist community is resolute on that as well.”

In recent weeks, Sinn Fein’s Declan Kearney called for “a national civic campaign to defend the Good Friday Agreement and demand its full implementation”.

The party’s national chairman said: “I am calling on the widest cross section of civic society in Ireland to follow the democratic example of 1998 and now organise a popular national campaign to defend the Good Friday Agreement against its opponents, and to reclaim it for all of our people and future generations.”

East Antrim MLA Gordon Lyons said, “Sinn Fein collapsed Stormont over a year ago and recent talks have failed because they wanted only a one-sided deal.

“I want to see devolution back but in its absence, it is for our government in London to take key decisions.

“Sinn Fein can’t have it both ways, they cannot present themselves as protectors of the Belfast Agreement on one hand but call for so-called ‘joint stewardship’ on the other. Calls such as this to have the Republic of Ireland directly involved in running Northern Ireland speaks to how little those who propose it care about the principle of consent.”

Speaking in the Commons last September, Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “to confirm that we would not be looking at a joint authority”.