Conor McGinn seeks to protect peace accord in UK law

Conor McGinn is seeking protections in British law for the Good Friday Agreement. Picture by Matt Bohill

SOUTH Armagh-born Labour MP Conor McGinn has called for the principles of the Good Friday Agreement to be protected in British law.

The St Helens North representative has tabled a series of amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill that aim to secure freedom of movement and trade across Ireland, while enshrining the power-sharing and north-south institutions set-up under the 1998 accord.

Mr McGinn said his amendments would preserve existing human rights and equality legislation, alongside the principle of consent.

The status of Irish citizens would be placed on the statute book, he said, with the amendments recognising rights "inclusive of and in addition to their status, rights and entitlements as EU citizens". The final bill would provide protections for the Irish language and Irish speakers too.

The Labour MP told The Irish News that the Good Friday Agreement is not protected in domestic British law and that a "huge number" of its provisions were predicated on both the UK and the Republic being members of the EU.

"This is chance for parliament to stop the backsliding, a la carte approach to the agreement that is being taken by the Tory government, and would force Theresa May to put the Good Friday Agreement and all of its provisions in UK law so that even after the UK leaves the EU, everything contained and envisioned in it will be protected," he said.

Mr McGinn's additions to the legislation, which would come into force after clearing parliamentary hurdles in Westminster's two houses, would mean the1998 accord would be explicitly upheld by the British government after Brexit.

He said his proposals are seeking to preserve the EU-recognised status of the Irish language, on the basis of "respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity", as set out in the Good Friday Agreement.

"MPs from all parties recognise the importance of protecting the peace process and the tremendous progress we have seen on the island of Ireland and in British-Irish relations since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement nearly 20 years ago, and the government has the chance through my amendments to show it does too.

"We must act to safeguard the progress made by protecting the Good Friday Agreement and enshrining it on the statute book as we leave the EU."

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