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Press Cycle 7 - Northern Ireland
What do you make of the situation in Northern Ireland?

29/04/2020 Deadline, 23:59pm

Extended by 48 hours to 01/05/2020, 23:59pm
The news that the Government is now being propped up by a Fianna Fáil MP should be deeply concerning to the vast majority of British people who love our Union and also want to see Brexit accomplished. Because no matter how many times Caroline Blakesley insists that Fianna Fail has no influence over the Government, the unrivaled leverage this MP has to make or break the Government means she will have no choice but to meet their demands. Every major vote facing the Government, from their upcoming budget to their backwards legislation forcing a second referendum on our departure from the EU, risks failing if not every single MP the Government has managed to cobble together votes in favor. We are now in a situation where the shear existence of the Government relies on the cooperation of an anti-Brexit, anti Union, pro-Irish Republic MP. It is a sad day for the state of British politics. 

There is no doubt in my mind that Fianna Fáil has reached this conclusion, and anyone who suggests otherwise is either apart of the Government's spin machine or kidding themselves.

For the first time since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, a British Government is being propped up by a party with a vested interest in triggering a border poll, making it impossible for the Government to properly perform its role as an "honest broker." In her efforts to remain in power at all costs, Caroline Blakesley is sacrificing the British Government's legal responsibility to the people of Northern Ireland and placing her political ambitions above the needs of our Union. It is impossible for the Government to assume the role of an impartial broker when their existence depends upon keeping anti-Union, pro-Republic, Fiana Fail MPs content and onside. It is an act of unprecedented selfishness on the part of the Labour Party to allow themselves to remain in Government by relying on Fiana Fail; setting aside their duty to uphold the GFA in order to keep their hold on power. 

At some point, any respectable political party is going to decide that honoring one's principles and legal obligations is more important than holding the keys to 10 Downing. For the sake of the United Kingdom, I hope that day of reckoning comes very soon for Caroline Blakesley and the Labour Party.
William West MP - Conservative Party

Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
MP for Ribble Valley (2015 - )
The Prime Minister has said that that we needed be worried about the decision of the SDLP to merge with Fianna Fail, as this does not change the composition of the Governing Coalition.. She is in part correct - this merger doesn't change the composition of the Governing Coalition, but there is still concern and worry as this merger changes the stability of the Governing Coalition. The "Government" itself is this Governing Coalition comprising, not two, but three parties - no matter how much in agreement they are on certain issues, they do not have a majority and have had to rely on 5 separate confidence and supply agreements. These confidence and supply agreements all differ in length as to when they would be renewed. The SDLP agreement, which Fianna Fail are supporting in full, was for the Queen's Speech, the Budget, and other confidence measures. Everything else would be on a case by case basis. The SDLP MPs are now split - one taking the whip of Fianna Fail, the other now being the Irish Labour Party. This is the problem - this government - this coalition - is now having to rely on 6 "parties" to get a majority of 1. It is a further problem that the vague confidence and supply agreement with the SDLP is at risk. Fianna Fail may have said that Confidence and Supply agreement stands. The Irish Labour Party MP will most likely vote the way that the SDLP would - but the SDLP is no more. The SDLP was a Social Democratic Party, Fianna Fail is what one would call a liberal conservative party - one is centre-left, the other centre-right. The agreement that the SDLP made with the Governing Coalition would back the Government on confidence and a People's Vote - but on all other policies the Governing Coalition are now dealing with a brand new party. If the Governing Coalition can only pass the Queen's Speech by a majority of one how can they deliver on legislation that differs from Fianna Fail's vision? Is the Governing Coalition to declare everything a confidence motion - are the coalition parties themselves going to be unable to deliver their pledges if it goes against Fianna Fail's vision? This is what I meant by a change to stability!
MP for Hexham 2005 -
The Government is committed to the peace process in Northern Ireland and upholding the Good Friday Agreement – that is absolute. We are fulfilling our role as a neutral broker in Northern Ireland, working diligently to restore devolved government to Stormont. That is our absolute priority. The Government remains fully committed to achieving that goal, in line with all Northern Irish political parties. The Northern Ireland Secretary is working diligently to facilitate those discussions. That is the work of this government.

I understand that politicians are seeking to use the current political situation as an opportunity to play politics in Northern Ireland: that is wrong. Northern Ireland is not a political football, it is a constituent nation of the United Kingdom. Unfounded accusations of violating the Good Friday Agreement are a direct attempt to undermine the Government’s work to see the agreement honoured – namely by returning power-sharing to Stormont. However, we will not let this stop us. We will our continue our work to see the Good Friday Agreement carried out as a neutral arbiter, as is our responsibility.
Caroline Blakesley MP DCB
Prime Minister (June 2019-)
MP for Manchester Central (2015-) | Labour
Traits: Fundraising Extraordionare, Campaign Guru, Media Darling, Constituency Pariah
I am aware that a member of the Shadow Cabinet, namely Mr William Grey, has made the deeply troubling allegation that the Government are unable to act as a neutral party in Northern Ireland. I suspect the Shadow Minister knew that he was alleging we had broken the Good Friday Agreement. I suspect also that he knew that by making the allegation, he would be undermining the Government's work to honour the agreement and our efforts to restore power-sharing. I will put it plainly; that is a very serious allegation but it is also evidently false.

There is a certain expectation that members of the Privy Council have a broader responsibility to ensure they represent the national interest and in making such a serious false allegation against the Government, the Shadow Minister undermines a part of our constitution. To be clear; if he was in Government and not merely a Shadow Minister, he would be in breach of the Ministerial Code. It was deeply irresponsible of him, and he ought to apologise.

It is unfortunate that William Grey and Sebastian Knight chose to use the press room to undermine the Government's work in honouring our obligations under the Good Friday Agreement. None of this was raised in Parliament by Mr Grey or Mr Knight.

They asked no questions at our weekly Northern Ireland questions session with the Government Ministerial team. They have not as of yet spoken in the two additional opportunities to do so in urgent question sessions. They chose to make these irresponsible comments through the press rather than parliament and that tells me their comments were more about narcissism than Northern Ireland.
James 'Jim' Kennedy MP
Home Secretary
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
MP for Wansbeck (2010-) | Labour and Cooperative
Traits: Media Darling, Backbench Favourite, Finite Resources
In suggesting that Opposition MPs must refrain from criticizing the Government or risk undermining the Good Friday Agreement, Caroline Blakesley and the Labour Party are politicizing the hard-won peace in Northern Ireland and attempting to absolve themselves of entirely valid criticism. The Government has taken zero concrete steps to prove to the people of the United Kingdom that they have the capacity of remaining an honest broken, as required under the GFA, other than empty promises that the Northern Irish MPs propping up their Government have "no influence" within the coalition. This is a first in British politics. At no other time since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement has a British Government relied upon Northern Irish MPs in order to function, let alone MPs representing a political party active on both sides of the border and openly advocating for a unified Republic. Instead of attacking the credibility and patriotism of those who are concerned with the Government's ability to uphold the GFA, Ms. Blakesley should be explaining to the British people how she is going to honor the agreement. 

Caroline Blakesley is right: Northern Ireland is a constituent nation of the United Kingdom and deserves to be respected as one. Accordingly, they deserve a Prime Minister who cares more about their place in our Union than remaining in 10 Downing by doing deals with Republican MPs.

I've just read that James Kennedy has suggested to members of the press that I and other Conservative MPs have shown our true intentions by voicing our concerns first to the press rather than to Parliament. I will happily remind Mr. Kennedy that the first time a Conservative MP spoke publicly about the Government's connection to Fianna Fail, it was the Leader of the Opposition submitting an urgent question to Caroline Blakesley imploring her to explain how the Government will remain an honest broker. On an issue as serious as peace in Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement, I implore the Labour Party to stick with the facts and honor the truth. The Conservatives, honoring our responsibility as the official Opposition and largest single party in the House of Commons, brought this issue directly before the House before ever speaking to the press. It is now incumbent upon Ms. Blakesley and the Government to stop ducking our questions and outline the specific, material steps they are taking to ensure the Government can continue to fulfill its legal obligations under the Good Friday Agreement.
William West MP - Conservative Party

Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
MP for Ribble Valley (2015 - )
Northern Irish politics is an incredibly sensitive and complex issue, and it's one where William Grey's standard brand of hyperbolic politics is especially unwelcome. A lot of good work is being done in this government on restoring power-sharing at Stormont, and the government is sticking to the legally binding obligations of the Good Friday Agreement in serving as an impartial arbiter on these issues - whatever developments and fluctuating party lines occur in Ireland or Northern Ireland, our legal duties under the Good Friday Agreement will not change. We will also - unlike the Conservatives - make sure that Northern Ireland is not treated as an afterthought in the Brexit process, no matter how the people of Britain vote in the upcoming People's Vote. We can, unlike the Conservatives, guarantee no risk of returning to a divisive hard border in Ireland, and, unlike the Conservatives, we can guarantee that there will be no sea border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. 
Grant Smith
Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West (2005-present)

Media Unknown, Constituency Appeal, Campaign Organiser, Fundraiser Extraordinaire 
Previously: Sir Lachlan Domnhall Coinneach Duncan MacMahon; Graham Adiputera; I think I played some dull Labour bloke at one point
Mr Kennedy, the Northern Ireland Secretary, clearly hasn’t listened to what I said. Using that same “press room” that he lambasted myself for using, he states that I have attempted to “undermine the Government's work in honouring our obligations under the Good Friday Agreement.” 

I have done no such thing, for had he listened to what I said, he would be aware that I made no mention of the Good Friday Agreement. The points that I raised were about the stability of this Governing Coalition comprised of  three separate parties now having to rely on six separate parties/individuals for confidence and supply agreements as a result of what has happened with the merger of the SDLP and Fianna Fáil. In what I said there was no mention of the Good Friday Agreement. Mr Kennedy also, in a rather bizarre attempt at negating my argument, criticises the fact that I have not asked the Governing Coalition questions during weekly sessions. He knows very well that as Shadow Health Secretary and Shadow Social Security Secretary that I would not ask questions to him or his team. In saying that I had the opportunity to ask questions in the two urgent questions currently before the House he has again shown considerable lack of comprehension of not only Parliament, but of the points I have raised. One Urgent Question is about the Government being an honest broker and the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, the other about Fianna Fáil holding the balance of power in both the Irish and British Governments specifically in relation to EU negotiations - neither question about my point of stability in the Governing Coalition’s agenda. These were not generic debates - these were urgent questions about a specific aspect of the situation of the merger. I am a politician with principles, I am not a politician who is about to start speaking on urgent questions over matters not entirely related to that question, I am not about to start turning up to he dispatch box when it is not my turn to do so, in relation to departments that I am not shadowing. Had I done any of this, I would quite rightly be called out on it, and I bet Mr Kennedy would be the first in line to do so.

Mr Kennedy would have you believe that I ran off to the press rather than Parliament to voice my opinions. This is not the case at all. The press asked for our opinion on the situation and I provided mine as is my democratic right. Its extremely telling that when the stability of the Government, of this Governing Coalition, is brought into question - the government respond by attacking those who have raised the issue, the avenue in which the issue has been highlighted - in this instance our free press - and they also try to nullify that argument by saying that the individual who questioned them said something that they did not.

If this how the Governing Coalition react to a genuine question about their stability, how can they possibly deal with serious issues such as the situation in Northern Ireland, the EU negotiations or the new Parliamentary issue that this merger has provided us with? 
MP for Hexham 2005 -
This Government is one which puts the Good Friday Agreement and peace process first. The job of the British Government is to be a broker between Northern Ireland's communities, not to wildly stab in the dark for cheap political points. Stability, peace, and the restoration of Stormont, so the people of Northern Ireland can once again have more say in what goes on in their constituent nation - those are the Government's priorities. It is disgraceful that the Government's work to see the agreement honoured is being smeared by populist forces in the opposition. 

If some MPs in the House believe that a few points in the polls are worth it for undermining the Good Friday Agreement, then I urge them to reconsider their priorities. We are setting out plans that care about the long-term peace process, and the stability of one of our constituent nations. We are not for one second going to break on that, or sacrifice our position as a neutral broker. As the Prime Minister says - "we will our continue our work to see the Good Friday Agreement carried out as a neutral arbiter". This is responsible governance from a Prime Minister who cares.
Walter A. Mead MP
Minister for the Arts (2019-present)
MP for Wolverhampton South West (2015-present)
Blairite Progress, voted for Syrian Airstrikes
Constituency Appeal | Campaigning Guru | Maverick
The Government is supported by MPs from both the Unionist and Nationalist communities in Northern Ireland.

The Conservatives only did deals with one side.

It is very clear which of these is danger to the Good Friday Agreement, and which is not.
Pooja Sharma | Conservative Party
MP for Hertsmere (2010-present)

Backbench Favourite, Campaign Organiser, Uninspiring

Formerly: Robert Lascelles, One Nation Party

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