Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Taking a hammer to the Belfast Agreement is unlikely to fix our problems warns Lord Empey [October 2022]

The press release issued by the Ulster Unionists on 31 October 2022.

Ulster Unionist Peer Lord Empey has warned the Taoiseach to be very careful following weekend comments in which he described Northern Ireland’s governance system as ‘not fit for purpose.’

Lord Empey, who was one of the Ulster Unionist Party’s lead negotiators at the time of the Belfast Agreement, said:

“I would urge caution to the Taoiseach in his comments. The Belfast Agreement managed to strike a balance that had previously proved elusive. It created institutions that allowed both of the main communities here to have a hand on the steering wheel. The vandalism that has been caused to those institutions was facilitated by both the Irish and UK Governments as they bent over backwards to placate the DUP and Sinn Fein since 2003.

“Ironically if it hadn’t been for the changes made at St Andrews, there would have been a DUP MLA in line to be nominated as First Minister following the last Assembly election because Unionism is still the largest designation in the Assembly. Both Governments are as complicit in the current stalemate as any of the Northern Ireland political parties.

“We are in the current scenario due to a mechanism put in place by both Governments in ‘New Decade, New Approach’ which was supposed to improve the sustainability of the institutions.

“The Belfast Agreement has a review mechanism, this is correct. But to simply take a hammer to parts of the Agreement is unlikely to fix the problem. Indeed, it could be that success lies in returning to the Agreement’s factory settings.

“It was clear throughout the 1996-1998 negotiations that the Irish Government was not involved in Strand 1 Talks (the internal affairs of Northern Ireland) and it is my firm conviction that this must be respected in any future discussions.”