Conservatives-DUP deal may run foul of Good Friday Agreement: Irish parties may move court

Theresa May's proposed deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has run into a roadblock, with British legal experts checking if it would run foul of the Good Friday Agreement. As per a report in The Guardian, the legal team is planning to apply for a judicial review of the deal once it is announced. High court judges would be asked to examine whether the pact breaches the government's commitment to exercise "rigorous impartiality" in the Good Friday Agreement.

The case could be heard in the Supreme Court because of its constitutional significance, and it follows warnings from several politicians, that it may undermine Northern Ireland's peace process. The report also mentioned that the legal challenge to the deal has been in the works, but they are waiting until Theresa May's Conservatives officially announce the deal.

 Conservatives-DUP deal may run foul of Good Friday Agreement: Irish parties may move court

British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to announce the DUP deal shortly. Reuters

Among the leading voices opposing the deal is the Irish party Sinn Fein, which has said it will oppose any deal between Tories and the DUP that undermines the peace deal.

According to Evening Standard, Michelle O'Neill, Sinn Fein leader in Northern Ireland, said, "We were very clear with the prime minister that any deal with herself and the DUP cannot undermine the Good Friday Agreement. We made it very clear that any package (on restoring power-sharing) that is delivered, there has to be a strong financial package to allow us to deliver good public services when we get the executive up and running again."

Among the many experts who criticised the proposed deal was former prime minister John Major, who was quoted by the BBC as saying he understands why the Tories want to shore up the parliamentary position, but "a fundamental part of the peace process in Northern Ireland is that the UK government needs to remain impartial". He said he is "wary and dubious" about the deal. "People shouldn't regard (the peace process) as a given, and we cannot know if that impartiality is going to be crucial at some stage in the future," he said.

However, the prime minister has repeatedly said that the deal wouldn't run foul of the Good Friday Agreement, as Westminster is committed to honouring the 1998 deal. "On reaching such an agreement, we will make sure that the details of that are made public so that people can see exactly what that is based on," Theresa May was quoted as saying by The Independent. "As a UK government, we remain absolutely steadfast in our commitment to the Belfast Agreement, its successor agreements."

The Good Friday Agreement was a deal signed in April 1998 between British and Irish governments, meant to bring an end to 30 years of sectarian conflict. As mentioned in the BBC, the agreement set up a power sharing assembly to govern Northern Ireland by cross-community consent.

The contentious portion of the agreement, the section that may attract legal scrutiny after the Tories' deal, will focus on subsection five of article one. It states that the British and Irish governments will "affirm that whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, the power of the sovereign government with jurisdiction there shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their identities and traditions and shall be founded on the principles of full respect for, and equality of, civil, political, social and cultural rights, of freedom from discrimination for all citizens, and of parity of esteem and of just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities."

Of this, the term "rigorous impartiality" will be probed by the courts, and the government's ability to uphold this principle.

Updated Date: Jun 21, 2017 12:25:17 IST