After the General Election called by Theresa May to ‘strengthen her hand’ ended in a pretty surprising result, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom might be on pretty unstable ground. What’s more – the ace up her sleeve, a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party that will help her secure a majority of votes in the House of Commons, might be on some rather rocky ground itself.
The election was called with Brexit in mind, but it might be Barristers that the Government of the United Kingdom will need. While Theresa May won’t be requiring the use of a criminal defense lawyer, the deal with the DUP could scupper one of the biggest and most important peace treaties in Europe: The Good Friday Agreement.
Northern Ireland is a country that has always been split – from its earliest days. Split via religion, if not nationalist identity. These splits lead to friction, and that friction led to an almost evergreen state of violence between two sides; namely, those who wish for a united Ireland and those who wish to see the United Kingdom stay intact. It is Great Britain that marks the union between the British Island that contains Scotland, Wales, and England – but the United Kingdom that sees Northern Ireland join the union. The violence carried about between Republican and Unionist activists, and paramilitary groups would be known as ‘The Troubles’ – a thirty-year guerrilla war carried out across the United Kingdom. It was ended in 1998, when the Provisional Irish Republican Army disarmed and focused on achieving its goals politically. Violence has still occurred after the ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement, but it is relatively sporadic and nowhere near as much as a threat as it was during the height of The Troubles.
However, politicians from a number of parties are warning that the DUP deal could bring back the very real risk of violence – it would be in direct breach of the GFA, and it would also prejudice itself against those who hold Republican views.
It is impartiality that is key to the Good Friday Agreement, and a huge part of it is the fact that the Queen – nor her elected Government – would have much say in matters relating to Northern Ireland, which governs from Stormont in Belfast. However, by agreeing to a £1bn deal with one Northern Ireland political party, Theresa May’s Conservative Party can be viewed as breaching the impartiality of the Good Friday Agreement which could have some very serious consequences indeed.
The actual situation in Northern Ireland isn’t stable either – as the devolved Government there has been in collapse since March, after members of the opposing Sinn Fein party pulled out and abstained from Government after their disagreement with how the DUP handled a financial situation. Northern Ireland is governed by the two parties in a power-sharing agreement, however, they are unlikely to come to a resolution before June 29th – which means Westminster will take control.
It is an interesting situation, and there are some huge considerations to be taken into account – but one thing is for sure, this deal between the Conservative Party and the DUP might not be as legally sound as they’d like you to think.