Boris Johnson’s government is resisting growing calls for a special crisis summit with Dublin to address rising tensions in Northern Ireland, amid growing international anxiety over the return of sectarian violence.
The Observer High-level sources have said that suggestions from Dublin to London that the crisis calls for a high-level intergovernmental conference to help stabilize the situation have not received any enthusiasm from the British side.
Dublin is understood to firmly believe that recent tensions and several nights of violence, as well as the breakdown of relations between Northern Ireland’s parties, require the two governments to meet urgently.
“The opinion in Dublin is that the political leadership necessary to stabilize the situation is not going to come from Northern Ireland at this time. It must come from both governments. Dublin believes that such a meeting would provide a very visible way of reassuring people that the center is going to be held, ”said a source.
Dublin wants a meeting in Northern Ireland between the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, and the Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, to address a number of issues that have reignited tensions, including the trade and border problems caused by the Brexit deal reached by Boris Johnson.
It is understood that the calls for a special meeting, as provided in the Good Friday agreement, were transmitted through diplomatic channels late last week, but were rejected by London.
“There is a fear of upsetting trade unionists, a concern that this will be seen as excessive interference by Dublin in Northern Ireland affairs,” said a source.
Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin said yesterday that political leaders must not allow Northern Ireland to “spiral back into that dark place of sectarian assassinations and political discord” after the region was marred by another night of disorder on Friday. .
On the anniversary of the Good Friday agreement 23 years ago, the taoiseach said there was “a particular responsibility for those of us who currently have the responsibility of the political leadership to step forward and play our role and ensure that this does not happen.”
Police officers were injured when they were attacked in the Tiger’s Bay loyalist area in North Belfast on the eighth consecutive night of violence. A burning car was rammed into a police vehicle and the containers caught fire in the middle of the road, raising fears that the violence would continue into the weekend.
Northern Ireland Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill said Friday night: “I am worried about the weekend ahead. We all need to be very careful and consciously try to do everything possible to prevent this from happening. I think there is an important role here for the two governments, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday agreement. I said that to Brandon Lewis this morning. “
Lewis flew to Belfast for urgent talks with the five party leaders about the Northern Ireland executive on Friday, but no statement was issued due to protocols surrounding the death of Prince Philip.
On Thursday, the White House expressed concern, with Joe Biden calling for calm after what police described as the worst violence in Belfast in years.
Writing today ObserverJonathan Powell, who was Britain’s top negotiator in Northern Ireland from 1997 to 2007, says Johnson lied about the effects of his Brexit deal and says the current return to violence requires political skill rather than gambling. “All of this requires the British government to start paying attention to Northern Ireland rather than using it cynically,” he writes. “The worst problems in Ireland have always occurred when Great Britain ignores them. And it means no longer using it as a battering ram in a new post-Brexit conflict with the EU.
“Above all, it means being honest with the people of Northern Ireland about your position. The government can no longer claim clean hands if it does not take these steps and the result of its political approach is the unraveling of peace in Northern Ireland ”.
Labor is also calling on Johnson to establish a British-Irish intergovernmental conference, designed under the agreement as a “safety valve” for handling disagreement and tension.
Louise Haigh, shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland, said: “If the dialogue is taken seriously, the prime minister should revive the institutions of the Good Friday agreement to which he has paid little attention. Every moment of instability in Northern Ireland demands concentration, attention and leadership from the Prime Minister. Boris Johnson must start to show that. “
Intergovernmental talks are unlikely to be scheduled until a legal dispute over the Northern Ireland protocol between the EU and the UK is resolved.
The UK delivered a roadmap on the protocol’s implementation in Brussels on March 31 and technical talks are ongoing.
On Friday, Lewis made it clear to parties in Northern Ireland that the protocol would not be lifted, but communications around the resolution of the EU-UK dispute will need careful and strategic handling in the current feverish atmosphere in Belfast and in other parts of the region.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism