Who fears to speak of 1998
Dr Martin Mansergh said Gerry Adams’s assertion on the RTÉ Radio programme This Week that the governments of that time refused to push or promote the repeal of the [Government of Ireland] Act, partitioning Ireland, was at complete variance with the record. Dr Mansergh said former taoiseach Albert Reynolds had always said the Government of Ireland Act would have to be on the table with Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution. “The demand, which was acceded to, was maintained right up to the Good Friday agreement and was never taken off the agenda,” Dr Mansergh added.
Here’s Bertie Ahern speaking at the 1998 Arbour Hill commemoration, celebrating what had been achieved by putting the 1920 Act on the table –
That is the clear consequence of the British-Irish Agreement, and the repeal of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, the partition act, which with imperious arrogance and futility declared in Section 75 in the middle of the war of independence that ‘The supreme authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters, and things in Ireland and every part thereof’. That will now be consigned to history.
It’s good to know that the mortal threat to the Republic of Ireland, namely a claim of authority by the London Parliament, which had hung over our heads up to 1998, was finally removed by the Good Friday Agreement.
The fact is, Mansergh is playing word games. The Government of Ireland Act never took effect in the Irish Free State, later the Republic, because it was superseded by the Treaty. And it steadily became obsolete in Northern Ireland, especially with the abolition of the original Stormont Assembly in 1972. The hyping up of Section 75 was instead a stunt to create a seeming quid pro quo for getting rid of Articles 2 and 3. Most of all, the Good Friday Agreement clearly recognizes the reality of Northern Ireland as a non-failed political entity — the ultimate rebuke to Mansergh’s favourite boss, the early 1980s vintage of Charlie Haughey.