>> 13 Sep 2004

Amateurish Journalism

Close on the heels of the objectionable Brian Feeney is James Kelly. He is Saturday's nationalist hack in the Irish News and, whilst not quite as inflammatory as his mid-week colleague, nevertheless persists in writing drivel which has to be challenged from time to time.

Last Saturday, Kelly envisaged the creation of an Ulster paradise, created out of the foundation stones of the same Belfast Agreement (BA) that Irish separatism still thinks is the key to harmonious relationships. A couple of sentences caught my eye as they busily perpetrated the myths of the legal standing of the Agreement, as well as the stupidity of envisaging joint authority in the event of its demise.

Kelly states: 'The two governments - as custodians of the referendum of the whole people of Ireland....' In reality there were two referenda asking two very different questions. The first, held in Northern Ireland, was purely consultative (as are all UK referenda) - asking for people's consent to the implementation of the Multi-Party Agreement provisions in the BA. The Republic's distinct referendum asked voters to endorse the removal of an internationally illegal territorial claim. With regard to the latter, the Republic's referendum commission stated at the time that the Southern vote for not a vote for the BA as it had very little legal standing in the country's constitution. In other words, the BA has no bearing on the internal politics of the Republic and, consequently, it is disingenuous to argue that the BA in its entirety was established by an all-Ireland vote.

His second mistake revolves around his contention that the Belfast Agreement is 'an international treaty - not another Treaty of Limerick.' If Kelly is indicative of nationalist Ireland's grasp of constitutional law then it points to a low level of understanding. Let me make the legal standing of the Agreement somewhat clearer.

The Belfast Agreement came in two parts. The first section was entitled The Multi-Party Agreement. It is the section dealing with the assembly, cross border bodies, prisoners, rights, east-west links, etc. It has NO legal standing constitutionally either in domestic or international law. The UK Government could scrap all of the above tomorrow and, notwithstanding the challenge of the Irish Government over the cross border bodies due to their inclusion in Eire's Constitution, would be successful in defending its case.

The second part of the BA is the ONLY section which can be classed as an international treaty. It was entitled the British-Irish Agreement and dealt solely with the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, in addition to provisions on how that status could possibly be changed in the future. However, as I've said repeatedly, the British Irish Agreement only commits the two states to introduce (in the light of TWO positive referenda) legislation into their respective parliaments pertaining to a transfer of sovereignty. It does not compel either or both of them to endorse a transfer of sovereignty.

I am well aware that nationalists tend to live on their own little planet of self-denial and victimhood. Even so, you would have thought such porkies addressing the legality of what was agreed six years ago would have been adequately rebutted by now.


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