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M-1: Anglo-Irish Agreement

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Mr. Speaker,

I humbly submit the following motion to the House for consideration:


That this House supports the Anglo-Irish Agreement as signed on 15 November 1985 and supports using the Agreement as written as a basis for future peace efforts, and regrets that the government is not supporting this Agreement. 

I move that this motion be considered on an opposition day.

Mr Speaker,

I put forward this motion because I believe that the Anglo-Irish Agreement that the previous Prime Minister negotiated was an impressive feat of diplomacy and that its apparent abandonment an act of serious political malpractice. I believe that a majority of this House shares that view. I believe that a majority of this House regrets the rushed and ill-conceived decision to not honour this agreement. I believe that a majority of this House thinks that it is a mistake to reattempt an uncompromising and perfectionist approach to the Northern Ireland, an approach that has failed countless times before. 

I am certain that, had the previous Prime Minister placed this Agreement before the House, it would have received the backing of a comfortable majority. And not just that, but the Prime Minister would have been in a small minority, not just within this House as a whole, but within his own party. 

I believe the Anglo-Irish Agreement can serve as an important stepping stone. It would improve trust and friendship between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, and improve coordination on issues such as justice and terrorism. It helps pave the way for devolution, and ensures that the right to decide the future of Northern Ireland stays with the people of Northern Ireland.

Does it solve everything? No. But it provides necessary steps. And it was able to do these things because it is an imperfect compromise, because it doesn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, because there was a commendable restraint in its scope and ambition. That’s what makes this Agreement so impressive, so commendable. 

And the government’s cavalier attitude towards it all the more disappointing. 

Mr Speaker, I strongly believe that in their heart of hearts, a vast majority of this House recognises the folly of the government’s decision to abandon the Anglo-Irish Agreement and that we wish to see it preserved, to see trust in our word as a negotiating partner restored, and to see these essential stepping stones towards peace secured. That is why I urge the House to support this measure.

Laurence Foltyn, Liberal MP for Colne Valley

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Mr Speaker,


I agree with the Leader of the Liberal Party that it is regrettable that the Prime Minister and his Foreign Secretary have torn up the Anglo-Irish agreement, ruined our international reputation as a nation that keeps its word on international agreements, and has done so without a plan in place to replace the document they have abandoned nor a plan on what their re-negotiation stance will be.


I am certain that all members of this House agree that the Anglo-Irish was not a perfect agreement, it had its weaknesses but it was a step forward towards peace in Northern Ireland. It was a step forward because it recognised sovereignty of the United Kingdom with Ireland accepting that it had no territorial claim on Ulster. It enhanced the working relationship between the British Government and the Irish Government to deliver greater security for the people of Northern Ireland. That is what I believe the Prime Minister and his Government has completely forgotten in the rush to renege on an international treaty.


If this agreement had come to the House I firmly believe that it would have been supported by a wide majority of members, and I commend the Right Honourable Lady the Member for Finchley in negotiating this agreement. I can only imagine how it must feel to see her successor commit the ultimate betrayal of disloyalty and to see members of her Government now vociferously abandon her legacy. She and I rarely agree, but her work on securing this agreement should be commended.


Mr Speaker, what the Prime Minister has done in abandoning this agreement is to leave us weaker and national security at greater risk. The movements taken towards peace have now been forced backwards, and the Government will be starting a renegotiation in a weakened position, no matter who wins the Irish General Election.


What is clear, and I think there is wide consensus on this point, is that the Anglo-Irish agreement was not perfect, but as the Right Honourable member we must not let perfect be the enemy of the good. And this agreement was a good first step. The agreement itself had provisions for re-negotiation and further evolution of the plan, and that is the process that the Prime Minister should have engaged in to seek the outcomes that he wants. But no, he wanted to score a quick political win to impress the member for South Down rather than secure the long-term security and peace of Northern Ireland.


The Government has plan, no idea and no clue as to what they want achieve. If they did they would have answered the scrutiny placed upon them, but instead they duck and they weave hoping that nobody notices they made a massive mistake. Bad luck, Prime Minster, we all noticed.

Mary Temple MP

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Labour MP for Vauxhall

Leader of the Labour Party



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Mr. Speaker,

If the current version of the Anglo-Irish Agreement were a path to a sustainable peace process, the motion before us would have near unanimous support. The difficult reality is that the current version of the agreement will not achieve any meaningful path to peace. It is not supported by the Unionist community in Northern Ireland. It is not supported by the Republican community in Northern Ireland. It is not supported by the elected Irish government. This government does not support the current version because we believe it must include additional assurances on security, counterterrorism and a host of other issues so that it can be broadly supported by the people in Northern Ireland.

This motion before the House asks us to endorse an agreement that is already off the table. How could any of us reasonably do that? What we must do is oppose this motion and support instead the use of the Anglo-Irish Agreement as a framework, a steppingstone towards a revised agreement that can have the support of all communities and give us a real opportunity at a lasting peace. 

John Hewitt MP

Member of Parliament for Saffron Walden 

Conservative Party 

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