I attended at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality this morning as a member of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
The Committee heard submissions from Emma DeSouza from Derry, who is challenging being automatically ruled a British citizen under UK law rather than having a choice of Irish citizenship as provided for in the Good Friday Agreement; Belfast-based academic and expert on human rights law, Professor Colin Harvey; and Una Boyd, of the Committee for the Administration of Justice also took part.
I had two important questions that I felt needed to be asked after hearing previously from Robin Walker (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland) and indeed our Taoiseach and Tánaiste negotiating and trying to find solution. What Colin has said about the implementation crisis and no dispute mechanism there is key to part of the resolution of your issue Emma. I just ask what your view would be on an all-party motion in the Oireachtas calling on the British Government to honour its commitments to the Good Friday Agreement and indeed to possibly seek a dispute mechanism within the Good Friday Agreement in order to avoid an implementation crisis.
Secondly, to what degree are you aware that the issues and obligations to the international treaty have been raised within the context of the British Withdrawal Agreement.
Emma: An all-party motion would be very welcome, and we are at a point where it would be necessary and needed. Our own case took four years now nearly five years. People are being put in a desperate position in the North. There are many other similar cases.
A Motion in support of finding a resolution would be very welcome.
Professor Colin Harvey:
The issue of governance around the Withdrawal Agreement and there is a protocol which does allow for dispute adjudication. There’s an elaborate architecture there. Article 2 of the Good Friday Agreement includes a reference to no diminution in relation to rights and equality and specifically references part of the Good Friday Agreement in the protocol so it’s very likely in the future that the Good Friday Agreement will find itself being discussed within that architecture.
Second is that whatever guarantees are there need to find their way fully and effectively into British Law policy and practice. Bearing in mind majority of people NI don’t want to leave EU but if Brexit does happen that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill that will go before Parliament that it is vital to ensure that the guarantees that are there in relation to rights and equality are fully reflected in that Bill as it goes through Parliament. We don’t want to end up in situation where people’s rights have been infringed.