Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday called on Northern Irish Unionists to follow the path of their predecessors who struck the peace deal in 1998 and show ‘leadership’ to end the political paralysis in the province. As the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which ended three deadly decades, approaches, the former Labor leader was heard by a British Parliament committee devoted to Northern Ireland.
In a thinly veiled allusion to ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Tony Blair warned against any “demagoguery” by leaders in London and welcomed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent agreement with the European Union on post-Brexit trade arrangements in Northern Ireland. “The difference between this peace process and many others around the world is that we had leaders at the time who were ready to lead,” Tony Blair said. “And each of them had to say things to their followers that were nasty, that people didn’t like,” he added.
Today, the unionist DUP party, viscerally attached to the United Kingdom, refuses to take part in local government where power is shared with the republicans of Sinn Fein, who want the province to join the Republic of Ireland. The DUP examines the agreement reached between London and Brussels, dubbed the “Windsor framework”, before saying whether it agrees to end its boycott of local institutions for a year, to denounce what it considers to be a border in the within the UK itself.
To respond to the Unionists’ concerns, the agreement concluded between London and Brussels provides, among other things, for a mechanism which should enable the Northern Irish Parliament to block the application of any new European legislation in the British province. This mechanism, called “Stormont brake”, named after the building which houses the local Parliament, must be submitted to the vote of the deputies in London on March 22, the British government announced on Thursday.
A date which also corresponds with the perilous hearing of Boris Johnson by the parliamentary commission of inquiry into the “partygate”, the scandal of the parties organized in Downing Street in violation of the anti-covid rules. Brexit involves ‘difficult squaring of the circle’, Tony Blair pointed out of Northern Ireland, which under the terms of the peace deal cannot have a hard border with EU member Ireland .
“And the reason why I support what the government, this Prime Minister has done on the Windsor agreement is that I believe it represents the most practical way forward, minimizing objections theoretical,” Mr Blair added. “And if we use common sense and realism, we can keep the peace intact, and secure a situation where whatever difficulties and challenges there are in Northern Ireland can be resolved through negotiation, not by violence,” he concluded.
This article is originally published on lefigaro.fr