Irish Northern Aid Committee
Why we continue to support the Irish struggle
for freedom and justice...and how you can help.
1998 Good Friday Agreement -
Commitments made and broken
The following is a brief summary of the lack of progress towards full implementation of the
GFA by the British government.
During the entire period since the signing of the GFA, the UDA and other loyalist
paramilitary organizations have murdered innocent Catholics, and their own people, as well
as engaging in a constant and concerted arson, pipe bomb and terror campaign on isolated Catholic
enclaves, particularly in North Belfast, East Belfast and various towns with minority Catholic
and mixed neighborhoods in the counties Down, Derry and Antrim. IRA arms have been absolutely
silent since its ceasefire was announced in 1997.
Please note that no where in the letter or spirit of the GFA does it empower
the First Minister of the Assembly to establish deadlines, ultimatums, banishments, etc. regarding
decommissioning of weapons or the standing down of any organization.
1. Devolved Power Sharing
The N.I. Assembly, Executive & Cross-border Bodies have been established. Unfortunately,
an implicit unionist veto constantly destroys the integrity of the new institutions. The British
government and Unionist Party's promises of a nationalist share of governmental power safe
from the whim of the British government and a unionist veto have been broken four times [the
latest British suspension of the assembly and assumption of direct rule over the north of
Ireland occurred on Oct. 14, 2002 due to David Trimble's announced withdrawal from government
on that day]. They have twice caused the North-South Cross Border Bodies [considered to be
the most important political development for nationalists] to break down, once by illegally
banning Sinn Fein from participating and again by withdrawing themselves at the end of September
2002 which effectively shut it down.
The threat of unionist walkout is always a cloud over the peace process. Since
the establishment of the power sharing institutions, the UUP has given nine separate ultimatums
for roll backs to the GFA or threatened to destroy it outright.
Now, both major unionist or loyalist parties, the Democratic Unionist Party under Ian Paisley
and the Ulster Unionist Party under David Trimble, are Anti-Agreement, regardless of the fact
that a majority of the Protestant people of the north voted for the Agreement in 1998.
2. Policing Reform (Patten Commission)
The Patten Commission was empowered by the GFA to recommend reforms of the sectarian police
force in the north of Ireland. The British government implemented only part of the Patten
Commission's recommendations. It's policing legislation was initially ripped universally by
all nationalist parties, British academics, the Irish government, and even the Catholic Church.
Key recommendations not implemented include: redistributing control from Britain and Chief
Constable to local officials; adequate local powers to investigate and oversee police performance;
police oaths to respect human rights; and neutral flags and symbols. A member of the Patten
Commission said: "The core elements of the Patten commission's report have been undermined
everywhere. The Patten report has not been cherry picked - it has been gutted." (Guardian,
The newly named Police Service Northern Ireland has been the center of outrage and complaints
by the nationalist community in ever since its inception. This is particularly the case for
nationalist neighborhoods under siege by loyalist gangs. Nationalists under attack are being
"policed", while almost no arrests have been made of loyalist perpetrators, where
they pipe bomb Catholic school girls or fire bomb Catholic homes. David Trimble’s UUP
voted to walk out of the GFA if new police reforms promised by the British government were
3. Demilitarization and Military Security.
So far, Britain's reductions in troop levels and military installations have been minimal.
At least 13,500 British troops remain. Nationalist areas such as South Armagh remain honeycombed
with British Army forts and electronic surveillance posts. The British proclaimed in January
of 2000 that decisions on demilitarization would not be made by the requirements of the GFA
or the stability of the IRA cessation -- which has been unbroken, but rather based on advice
from the "police" and the British army itself! In other words, the military establishment
was being appeased rather than the requirements of the GFA being implemented. In addition
to troop levels and military bases and installations, the British have introduced into the
Six Counties a new more lethal plastic bullet.
4. Emergency Laws.
Instead of bringing criminal law and procedure into line with accepted human rights norms,
Britain enacted even more repressive laws, made some of the military emergency laws permanent,
and applied some to Britain as a whole. The "Terrorism Act of 2000" continued Britain's
power to "derogate" from selected rights contained in the European Convention on
Human Rights, shifting the presumption of guilt to defendants in certain cases, and extended
police power to arrest and hold people incommunicado. Amnesty International: "This Act
effectively takes emergency powers that were conceded to deal with the situation in Northern
Ireland and puts them permanently into legislation." (2/19/01).
5. Criminal Justice Review
The recommendations do not go far enough, but even the positive steps may never happen because
they are linked to devolution and a functioning N. I. Executive, which the Ulster Unionist
Party has collapsed four times already. The CJRG report was issued over a year late - in March,
2000. To date, the CJRG recommendations have not been implemented, and it is not clear when,
if ever, they will be.
6. N. I. Human Rights Commission
The Commission has little legal power; it cannot even issue subpoenas to conduct an independent
investigation. Its primary power is to advise the British government on human rights, but
it is seldom followed, e.g., the NIHRC opposes the continuation of Britain's Emergency laws
and special powers. These special laws and powers have been stiffened.
7. N.I. Human Rights Legislation
The NIHRC's ability to deliver a meaningful Bill of Rights is in serious jeopardy. First,
the British government severely under-funded NIHRC and it will have to curtail consultations
in developing the Bill of Rights. Second, the Bill of Rights is supposed to comprehensive,
not the minimum rights contained in the European Convention of Human Rights, but Britain's
derogation from the Convention makes it impossible for the NIHRC to deliver even the minimal
rights set forth in the Convention. Third, the British government's track record is to ignore
the advice of the Human Rights Commission.
There has been flurry of procedural activity, but the main problems of religious discrimination
which gave rise to the conflict is not effectively being dealt with. The long history of employment
discrimination has not yet been rectified. In 1999, it was revealed by a British government
agency that Catholic males are now three times more likely to be unemployed as Protestant
males and the proportion of Catholics in the Long-Term Unemployment category has risen to
70%. A campaign is well under way by the Ulster Unionist Party to have this unemployment differential
excluded from further statistical analysis and tom have records reflect that any difference
in economic opportunity among nationalists is not associated with discrimination. This campaign
includes UUP collusion with senior NISRA officials and others.
The IRA has maintained a cease-fire since 1997, and has allowed international monitors to
inspect and monitor weapons dumps. The IRA did not sign the Agreement, as pointed out by Senator
George Mitchell in his November 18, 1999, review of the GFA's implementation. Those who signed
the GFA, including Sinn Fein, have kept their promises regarding decommissioning, i.e., to
work towards it in good faith along with the full implementation of the GFA.
Mr. Trimble has used this issue to put the Assembly and political institutions into dissolution
time and time again. He used the issue to ban Sinn Fein Ministers from the North-South Ministerial
Council Meetings, an illegal act. At no time, has any government or party ever made the case
that Sinn Fein was ever in violation of the GFA in any way, with regards decommissioning or
any other matter. The IRA have, in fact, "verifiably put weapons beyond use" twice
since Oct. 2001 as confirmed by the International Decommissioning Commission under Canadian
General deChastelain. All the while, loyalist paramilitary organizations murder, bomb and
terrorize innocent Catholics in an unending campaign of violence.
10. Full Implementation
Although there has been progress in some areas, such as prisoner release and the establishment
of the political institutions, the full implementation of the GFA is far from the case and
the political institutions have been totally suspended four times and interfered with on other
occasions [e.g., banning ministers from North-South Bodies] directly by the UUP and tacitly
acceded to by the British government.
11. Sectarian Harassment
Freedom form sectarian violence was built into the GFA. In the first two months of 2001 alone,
UDA loyalist paramilitary have made over 50 bomb attacks on Catholics' homes. Over 400 reported
pipe-bomb attacks against Catholic homes were perpetrated each of the past two years. Catholics
have been forced from their homes in significant numbers in Counties Antrim and Down and North
Belfast particularly. Catholics continue to be murdered by Loyalists because of their religion
as a political statement of loyalist and unionist rejection of the GFA. The year 2002 saw
the expansion of loyalist attacks into the isolated Catholic district of the Short Strand
in east Belfast, which is being terrorized day and night. Unionist Enterprise Minister, Reg
Empey, said, "Loyalists are actually completely undermining the unionist case on disarmament
because the republicans are saying to us that while we are asking republicans - demanding
republicans - disarm, these loyalist elements are running around pipe-bombing." (2/15/01)
The British government and its Royal Ulster Constabulary -- now renamed the Police Service
Northern Ireland [PSNI] -- have been unable or unwilling to stop this loyalist pogrom, and
to fulfill this guarantee under the GFA.
In a range of specific cases, justice, or even truth, has not been delivered by the British
government. For example, as evidence of Army and RUC collusion slowly leaks into public view,
the full story of British government involvement in the murders of nationalist human rights
lawyers Patrick Finucane and Rosemary Nelson remains concealed. Inquests into the deaths of
countless nationalist victims of the British shoot-to-kill policy remain a joke. The British
government has refused to establish independent inquiries into these cases and many others
still crying out for justice despite the urging of human rights groups. A recent BBC produced
Panorama documentary called "A License to Kill" tied the murder of Pat Finucane
directly to British intelligence, army and RUC. Justice for nationalists remains unfulfilled.
13. Prisoners & Ex-prisoners
Despite having clearly qualified for release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement,
Jerry Sheehy, Pearse McCauley, Mick O'Neill, Kevin Walsh and John Quinn still remain behind
bars in the 26 Counties. Also, punitive laws exist which discriminates against ex-prisoners
integration into society, e.g., denying ex-prisoners employment in the civil service even
if qualified and disqualifying them and their families from injury compensation if attacked
by loyalists, etc. In addition, there is serious societal discrimination among employers who
deny employment to ex-prisoners or fire them without cause. Two recent studies by the Univ.
of Ulster found: 1] 58% ex-POWs in poor or very poor health; 2] many struggle with family/marriage
breakdown, loss of partner, parent, child during or because of imprisonment; 3] 75% suffer
from “post traumatic stress disorder”; 4] over 75% can’t fin d any employment;
and 5] 86% are interested in services provided by Republican Ex-POW groups, indicative of
the lack of support from government agencies.
P.O. Box 24706
Detroit, MI 48224
P.O. Box 7158
Ann Arbor, MI 48107
INA National Site: www.inac.org
Detroit Irish Northern Aid meets the second tuesday of every month at 7:30pm. The location
varies, so contact Allan Bieniek, President at 734-284-7595.
BLOODY SUNDAY COMMERATION
The INAC and the Irish American Unity Conference jointly sponsored a 20th Anniversary Commeration
of Bloody Sunday, January 30, 2002, held at the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. More..