Irish Northern Aid - Michigan Unit
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Posted: 13-Nov-2008
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, 11/16/00).
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 implemented.

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.

8. Equality
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.

9. Decommissioning
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.

12. Justice
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:

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Allan Bieniek

Kathleen Eales

INA National Organization

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.

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..

Bloody Sundat Trust


Irish Northern Aid - Michigan Unit
P.O. Box 24706  •  Detroit, MI 48224
P.O. Box 7158 • Ann Arbor, MI 48107

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