Mark Durkan: Brexiteers have betrayed Good Friday Agreement
One of the key nationalist negotiators of the Good Friday Agreement has claimed Brexiteers are willing to "demolish" the peace accord as they seek to sever ties with Brussels.
Former Foyle MP Mark Durkan said senior Brexiteers had "betrayed their false concern for the Good Friday Agreement" and the peace settlement in Ireland.
In a weekend newspaper column, Tory MEP Daniel Hannan claimed the 1998 agreement had "flaws" and that the deal "represented a bribe to two sets of hardliners".
"For 20 years, Sinn Féin and the DUP have propped each other up like two exhausted boxers in a clinch," he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
"A permanent grand coalition leaves them free to reward their supporters with subsidies and sinecures."
Mr Hannan said his objections to the peace accord "were not on orange or green grounds but on democratic grounds".
"It's unhealthy to have the same people in office all the time," he said.
The MEP's comments come amid increased debate about the relevance of the Good Friday Agreement 20 years on.
Similar sentiments were voiced by former Secretary of State Owen Paterson, who said the collapse of power-sharing showed the Good Friday Agreement had "outlived its use".
However, the accord has been defended by Mr Durkan, who was part of the SDLP team that negotiated the 1998 peace agreement.
He said the influence of the European Union made the agreement possible.
"As John Hume always contended it would, common EU membership provided the model and context for agreement here – this was also clearly attested by George Mitchell," he said.
"The culture of cooperation that the European model brought to member states created a clear avenue for agreement in Ireland."
The former SDLP MP said the agreed Ireland created by the Good Friday Agreement had a "solid, broad-based and unique democratic integrity" and he claimed Brexiteers were "willing to demolish" the accord in pursuit of "an unagreed Brexit".
“What they fail to recognise is that Good Friday isn’t simply a hollow façade – it’s no stud wall that they can knock through, it’s a support wall for peace on these islands," he said.
Mr Durkan's successor in Foyle, Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion, said: "Daniel Hannan and Owen Paterson clearly have no love for the Good Friday Agreement.
"Unfortunately for them, they don't get to decide its future as it is an internationally-binding peace agreement, overwhelmingly endorsed by the people of Ireland."
The British government said it is "fully committed" to the Good Friday Agreement.
Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokesman said: "The government remains fully committed to the Good Friday Agreement and we continue to work towards getting the devolved administration up and running again.
"It is disappointing that agreement has not yet been reached between the parties, but we do still believe that the basis for an accommodation exists."