EXCL Good Friday Agreement not ‘cast in stone’, says senior Tory MP

Posted On: 
19th April 2018

The Good Friday Agreement is not "cast in stone" and could be amended in the future, according to the Tory chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee.

Then British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern signing the Good Friday Agreement in 1998
PA Images

Andrew Murrison said the peace deal's brokers would be "disappointed" if it were not changed at some point in the future.

The MP for South Wiltshire said while the agreement - which was signed exactly 20 years ago - was of “vital importance” in shoring up peace in the province, it would be “extraordinary” were politicians not able to revise it.

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The senior Tory, who backed Leave in the EU referendum, also said the relevance of the historic peace deal was being "overplayed by some" in the Brexit debate.

And in comments likely to anger some Remain supporters, he insisted that the European Union's role in the Good Friday Agreement was only relevant "in the margins".

Fears have been raised that a hardening of the border to cope with changes after the UK quits the EU, and thereby potentially breaching the agreement, could see renewed violence on the island.

Dr Murrison's committee colleague Kate Hoey was criticised earlier this year when she said it was time for a “cold, rational look” at the power-sharing arrangement in Stormont.

The Labour MP said the mandatory coalition as enshrined in the agreement was "not sustainable".

Asked for his view on her comments, Dr Murrison told The House Magazine the historic deal could be altered “like any international agreement”.

“I think people are beginning to realise that the Good Friday Agreement was of vital importance in moving the process along and everybody supports that, but it was never meant to be an agreement that was immutable and unchangeable,” he said.

“It would be extraordinary if that were the case. And at some point we’re going to have to come back and decide whether we need to revise parts of it, as indeed we did at St Andrews.

"So it’s not the case that it is cast in stone. It always will be subject to updating as circumstances change and I think that’s what Kate was driving at.”

Dr Murrison added that future amendments to the deal would in itself be a sign of progress.

“It would be wrong to regard it as unchangeable because I think those who were negotiating at the time anticipated that the political situation would improve further over the years ahead and would have expected the agreement to be amended at some point in the future and would be very disappointed if that were not the case, because it would suggest progress had not been made.”

And he said that both the relevance of the agreement to Britain’s exit from the EU and the bloc’s role in progress on the island of Ireland was being “overplayed by some”.

“Brexit and the continuation of the Good Friday agreement are perfectly compatible. There’s no reason why Brexit should conflict with the GFA at all,” he added.

“The European Union is mentioned in the Good Friday Agreement, but only in the margins, so it should be perfectly possible to execute Brexit without damaging or infringing in anyway upon the Good Friday Agreement in my opinion.”