Delivering the Promise of the Good Friday Agreement

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2018 National Delegate Conference
27 February 2018

Conference notes that 10th April marked the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, over 40 years of our trade union campaign for peace and justice and 25 years of unswerving support for that campaign from UNISON, our National Executive Council, our regions and branches.

Conference welcomes that the Agreement has led to relative peace in Northern Ireland in comparison to the years of conflict that preceeded it. However Conference also recognises that since the Good Friday Agreement was reached an increasing concern has been regression from its principles and the non-implementation of its provisions, and the provisions of subsequent agreements, relating to equality and human rights. This has been demonstrated by:

1)The failure of politicians in Northern Ireland to properly share-power within a framework of equality and human rights, which has left an even more divided and unequal society;

2)Policy and resource allocation decisions being taken outside of an equality and human rights framework which have led to persistently high levels of poverty, major inequalities in housing and in peoples’ health and educational outcomes, and continuing austerity and welfare cuts;

3)A series of political crises since 1998;

4)The lack of commitment by successive British and Irish Governments to their binding obligations under international law as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement.

Conference expresses deep concern that the Good Friday Agreement has now become a target of those pursuing a ‘hard’ exit of the UK from the EU. Conference is deeply disturbed at the politicians, including a former Tory Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, advocating the view at this time that the Good Friday Agreement has ‘failed’ or is ‘not sustainable’. Conference believes they do so as they recklessly view dismantling the architecture of the peace process as a price worth paying to achieve their own ideological ambitions. Conference believes that such irresponsible views must be robustly challenged.

Conference believes that a lack of political will from the co-guarantors of the Agreement and from some Northern Ireland parties has led to a regression away from the letter and spirit of the Agreement including:

a)The failure of the UK Government to bring forward a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland;

b)Repeated threats by the UK Government to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998;

c)The lack of a comprehensive process to address the issues faced by victims and survivors and to deal with the past;

d)The failure of politicians and public bodies to properly implement the statutory duty to promote equality of opportunity under section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998;

e)The failure to implement a Single Equality Bill in Northern Ireland;

f)The failure to bring forward an Anti-Poverty Strategy in Northern Ireland based on objective need;

g)The lack of Irish Language legislation;

h)The continuing use of ‘emergency’ powers in relation to policing and justice;

i)The pursuit of a ‘hard’ exit from the EU by the UK Government, which will undermine key principles of the Good Friday Agreement.

Conference believes that in the years that followed 1998 the opponents of equality and human rights within Northern Ireland were effectively given a veto on progress, as seen through the continuing opposition towards marriage equality, a women’s right to choose, and the prevalence of weak or missing commitments to action in relation to promoting equality and human rights for all of the groups covered by section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council to support the Northern Ireland region in its continuing campaign to protect the Peace Agreement and secure full implementation. Conference further calls on the National Executive Council, through Labour Link, to press the Labour party to take all actions necessary to protect the Good Friday Agreement, particularly in the context of the UK exit from the EU.