Northern Ireland’s future prosperity depends on ever closer relationships between Belfast, London and Dublin…

Finn McRedmond makes a good point today in the Irish Times when she makes the point that the “return of boring politics in Britain is great for Ireland”. It’s a reminder to some in Dublin that populism is not an especially British characteristic.

It’s not helpful for maintaining and building upon peace in Northern Ireland either. It’s quite shocking the degree to which it (Northern Ireland) has been left in abeyance. Sunak’s attendance at the British Irish Council was the first since 2007.

Since the Belfast Agreement was established in 1998, the Stormont institutions (the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive) have broken down on several occasions. The breakdowns have been caused by various factors, including disputes between political parties, disagreements over the implementation of agreements, and allegations of corruption and misconduct.

The Stormont institutions were first suspended in 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at Stormont. They were restored in 2007, but then collapsed again in 2017 following a scandal over a renewable heating scheme. The institutions remained suspended for over three years until they were restored in 2020.

They’ve been in abeyance since the last Assembly elections in 2021, and have not been fully functioning since. But in general the disappearance of the GFA and stability in Northern Ireland from the national agenda of both jurisdictions from about 2010 up until the onset of the current government coalition (along with a budget cancelling austerity) has been something a disaster.

Whatever happens in the longer term trajectory of each country (and as McRedmond notes, it’s now something of a dual track as far as Europe is concerned), they will remain tied together by Northern Ireland. The loss of EU membership means that the frequent touch points Bertie Ahern has recently spoken about in European summits are gone.

The future prosperity of the people of Northern Ireland depends now more than ever upon close co-ordination in the three primary co-ordinates of Belfast, London and Dublin if anything other than unstable politics is to take the lead in what is slowly becoming a more prosperous region of the UK and the island of Ireland.

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