The Ancient Order of Hibernians welcomes news of the trip to Ireland by the United States Special Envoy Mick Mulvaney and his comment to RTE Television that the United States would “protect and defend” the Good Friday Agreement. However, the Hibernians are disappointed that there seems to be a continued reluctance by the administration to make a clear, concise, and unambiguous statement that preserving the Good Friday Agreement by precluding the return of a British border in Ireland is a U.S. priority and necessary precondition to future U.S./U.K. agreements. The Hibernians believe that it is not enough to say “[Congress’s] attitude is ‘look the British need to know that if a border goes up, then all deals are off” as being reflective of the federal government, the administration, as the Executive Branch of the U.S. government, must also make clear its own support for the Good Friday Agreement and that it will not accept it being undermined by a British border in Ireland.
The Hibernians challenge the British spin that the United Kingdom’s “Internal Markets Bill” is a “contingency plan.” You only need a contingency plan to an agreement if you have intentions not to honor it. Adding a “contingency plan” to a signed internationally recognized agreement is as redundant as wearing a belt with suspenders (known as braces in the U.K.).
Breaking international law in a “very specific and limited way, ” as the U.K.’s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis blithely summarized the bill, is not a “contingency plan”; it is the definition of perfidy. Former Prime Minister Theresa May described the Internal Market’s Bill as “reckless and irresponsible.” In a recent joint Op-Ed former prime ministers Tony Blair and John Major categorized the legislation as “shameful …. irresponsible, wrong in principle and dangerous in practice.” The Law Society and Bar Council of England and Wales described the Internal Markets Bill as “represent[ing] a direct challenge to the rule of law, which include the country’s obligations under public international law.”
The only contingency the Internal Markets Bill provides for is the contingency of Britain not getting everything it wants in negotiations. It is a game of bluff with the peace of Northern Ireland as the stakes. In the words of AOH National President Danny O’Connell “What sort of reasonable negotiations can occur when one of the parties announces that if they do not get everything they want, they have a “contingency plan” to take their ball and go home. Worse yet, in this case, the United Kingdom is not threatening to go home with their ball, but with Ireland’s.”
The Ancient Order of Hibernians are concerned that continued vacillation by the administration regarding Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement may lead to blundering into a hard Brexit and a peace destroying British border in Ireland.
We share Special Envoy Mulvaney’s assessment, mentioned in his RTE interview, that we are at a point in history where “a series of events could put the Good Friday Agreement at risk.” At this time of year, when the world commemorates the sacrifices of WW I, we are reminded how an earlier “series of events” escalated into one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the world. In writing of that period, the historian Barbara Tuchman quoted German chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg who, when asked what started WW I replied, “Ah, If only one knew.”
The Hibernians do not wish to see a post-Brexit future where the Good Friday Agreement is in tatters, the peace of Ireland shattered, and the United States says, “Ah, If only one knew” because we hesitated today to speak out forcefully to insist that the signed commitments of the Good Friday Agreement and the Irish Protocol be honored.