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EXCL DUP MPs question Good Friday Agreement amid Stormont and Brexit turmoil

EXCL DUP MPs question Good Friday Agreement amid Stormont and Brexit turmoil

Emilio Casalicchio

3 min read

DUP MPs have joined prominent anti-EU campaigners in questioning the Good Friday Agreement amid turmoil in Stormont and uncertainty over the future of the Irish border after Brexit.

Jim Shannon and Sammy Wilson joined calls to rethink the landmark cross-party deal agreed 20 years ago.

Their interventions are significant because Theresa May - who has insisted she supports the Good Friday Agreement - needs the support of the 10 DUP MPs to prop up her minority government.

Tory ex-Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson at the weekend shared an article arguing the document had “run its course”, while Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan wrote that it should be reworked.

Labour former minister Kate Hoey - who was born in Northern Ireland - meanwhile said it was time for a “a cold rational look at the Belfast agreement”.

The power-sharing arrangement at Stormont collapsed more than a year ago over a renewable heating scandal.

Further disagreements over Sinn Fein demands for an Irish Language Act - among other issues - saw the collapse of fresh talks last week.

Sammy Wilson, the DUP MP for East Antrim, told PoliticsHome that critics of the Good Friday Agreement "are right".

He said “wreckers” in Sinn Fein had used it to bring the assembly down and “refuse to allow it to be reformed unless others give in to their blackmail demands”.

And he added: “The Tories are only saying what we have been arguing for - changes which make the assembly sustainable, which means no more wreckers' veto.”

Stramgford MP Mr Shannon said: “If Sinn Fein can hold back where we are as a protest to move forward then in real terms the Good Friday Agreement as it was has failed.

“Therefore its value has to be considered and looked at for the future.”

The Strangford MP added: “It at least took us forward partially but at this moment in time it isn’t and it does not contribute to political change going forward. Therefore its role is getting weakened.”

And Belfast East MP and DUP home affairs and defence spokesman Gavin Robinson said: "We have always said the current structures are not the final destination but part of the journey to normal democratic government in Northern Ireland."

Their comments are likely to fuel anger in Dublin after Simon Coveney, Ireland's deputy prime minister, lashed out at the Brexit supporters who questioned the Good Friday Agreement.

He said talking it down was “reckless and potentially undermines the foundations of a fragile peace process in Northern Ireland that should never be taken for granted”.

The British government has meanwhile rejected any notion that the Good Friday Agreement is not fit for purpose.

Asked about the comments of the anti-EU figures today, Brexit Secretary David Davis said: “Everything we are doing is aiming towards ensuring we meet every aspect of [the Belfast Agreement].”

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