Northern Ireland

Sinn Féin MP defends saying people were 'sold a pup' with Good Friday Agreement

Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy, centre, with party leader Mary Lou McDonald and deputy leader Michelle O'Neill. Picture by Kirsty O'Connor/PA
Sinn Féin MP Francie Molloy, centre, with party leader Mary Lou McDonald and deputy leader Michelle O'Neill. Picture by Kirsty O'Connor/PA

A VETERAN Sinn Fein politician has been accused of playing into the hands of dissident republicans after remarking that voters were "sold a pup" with the Good Friday Agreement.

Francie Molloy was last night standing by his Twitter comments despite coming in for criticism.

The Mid Ulster MP – who represents the same constituency as Sinn Féin vice-president and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill – yesterday insisted he fully supports the 1998 accord.

He said his comments were made in criticism of Taoiseach Micheál Martin saying he would not be pushing for a border poll.

Mr Molloy had tweeted in response to a BBC interview in which Mr Martin said he would not be "putting pressure" on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to set out the criteria for a referendum on a united Ireland.

The Fianna Fáil leader said the Good Friday Agreement "dealt with the constitutional status of Northern Ireland in my view for a considerable time" and there is a responsibility prior to triggering a border poll "that you do some basic work, and also that you work in the here and now".

Responding, Mr Molloy tweeted: "We were sold a pup with the GFA commitment from either Dublin or London to deliver for nationalists or republicans it was just a bluff."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described the "anti-agreement rhetoric" as "deeply worrying".

Alliance Omagh councillor Stephen Donnelly said: "It is careless to feed a betrayal narrative that can only be exploited by those who never wanted peace."

Ex-Labour senator and former SDLP councillor Máiría Cahill branded it a "staggering tweet from an MP who is close enough to the Deputy First Minister", asking: "Does the Sinn Féin leadership approve?"

Asked about his tweet, Mr Molloy yesterday told The Irish News it was a "sense of disappointment" with the Taoiseach's comments on not pressing the British government about a border poll.

The MP said it was a "let down" that people were "finding ways of not implementing" the Good Friday Agreement.

"The Dublin government and the British government have to a large extent ignored the content of it," he said.

"These people make agreements but before the ink is dry they have already dismissed it. It brings into any agreement you make with the British government, and any guarantee with the Irish government, that it's not worth the paper it's written on."

He added: "I support the Good Friday Agreement completely, but what I want to see is the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement."

Asked whether his comments risked being exploited by dissidents, he said: "I don't see it in that way whatsoever.

"The agreement is made, and the commitment to that there is a political way forward.

"I am not in any way advocating that there is an alternative. I want to see politics work."

Mr Molloy added: "Twenty years on we actually need to look at the Good Friday Agreement and see a commitment from the British government to a full implementation of it in all its aspects, and one of those aspects is to call a border poll."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: "Francie Molloy's anti-agreement rhetoric is deeply worrying and I sincerely hope that it is not a more mainstream view within Sinn Féin.

"If people in that party are dissatisfied with the progress that has been made, they would be better to reflect on their 13 years as joint head of government rather than blaming the institutions of peace.

"The only path to uniting the people of this island is through the spirit of partnership, cooperation and reconciliation that the Good Friday Agreement is built on. Delivering a new Ireland demands that we all spill our sweat to forge new enduring relationships between the people of this island and that we demonstrate to everyone that there is an equal place for them.

"That's the challenge that the agreement sets for those of us who support Irish unity. It's no bluff."

A spokesman for Sinn Féin last night described concerns that Mr Molloy's comments risk giving credence to anti-agreement dissident republicans as "nonsense".

He added that: "Sinn Féin fully supports the Good Friday Agreement - in all of its parts - and is committed to its full implementation including the provision for a referendum on Irish unity."