The 1998 Good Friday peace agreement to end the conflict in Northern Ireland could become unsalvageable, Irish republican party Sinn Fein has said, as Brexit and other unresolved issues continue to shutter the institutions set up under the agreement, Irish Republican News said.
Irish Republican News noted it has been two years since late Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness stepped aside as Deputy First Minister, pulling down Northern Ireland’s Stormont Executive over a giant corruption scandal that Sinn Fein was demanding be properly investigated.
This was the last straw for power-sharing between Irish republicans and pro-British unionists in the six Irish counties still claimed by Britain. Power-sharing had become unviable over its failure to deliver basic rights for Irish nationalists or implement previous agreements.
With Stormont not functioning, British civil servants now make ministerial decisions, although London denies there has been a return to full direct rule by Britain.
Marking the anniversary of the collapse of Stormont, Sinn Fein negotiator Conor Murphy said: “There is no escaping from the catastrophic course that Westminster and the DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] are charting with a reckless Brexit agenda that is hurtling towards a no-deal crash come March.
“This, along with the ongoing denial of rights to important sections of citizens in the north and vicious austerity cuts imposed from London are wrong and unjust.”
A particular concern in Ireland is a “no deal” or “hard” Brexit would likely involve the return of a militarised border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, raising the spectre of a return to the violence that marred the region for decades before the 1998 Good Friday deal.
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said that if Britain “crashes out” of the European Union, there will inevitably be a hardening of the border”.
In those circumstances, “it will be imperative to put the issue of the Border to the people of Ireland by referendum”, she said. She said the Dublin government should start preparations for a referendum on unity.