Fresh Start Agreement must not be another False Start – FF

Fianna Fáil Frontbench Spokesperson on Border Region Development Brendan Smith TD has welcomed the fact that another deal has been agreed in Belfast, but warned that the latest agreement, entitled ‘A Fresh Start’ must not be another false start.

The Cavan-Monaghan TD welcomed the fact that Fianna Fáil’s calls for the reinstatement of a paramilitary monitoring commission and the creation of a cross border crime task force have been included in the agreement, but expressed concern about the failure of the recent talks process to agree on mechanisms to deal with the past.

Deputy Smith commented, “People in the North have had enough of political games. They want their representatives to take responsibility and start delivering. This ‘Fresh Start’ Agreement must not be another false start, where the crisis is just kicked down the road past the next elections. Having taken some time to review the document, it is far from clear what is hugely different in this agreement from what went before in the Stormont House Agreement. Responsibility for making the actual decisions on welfare reform has been handed back to Westminster and the critical issue of dealing with the past has been postponed again, and both of these developments will give people cause for concern.

“Following recent violence and reports on the activity of paramilitary groups, Fianna Fáil called for the reintroduction of a paramilitary monitoring commission and the establishment of a properly resourced cross-border agency to deal with organised crime. Both of these suggestions have been accepted and we welcome this.

“We also called for solid commitments on Narrow Water Bridge and the upgrade of the A5 and while we welcome the commitment to press ahead with the A5, we are very disappointed that the Narrow Water Bridge receives only a vague and passing mention.

“The damage to public confidence in Northern Ireland created by the political games and paramilitary activity cannot and must not be underestimated. For the last four years, citizens whose buy-in and support is critically important have watched with dismay as the promise of the Good Friday Agreement and its institutions gave way to mistrust and recrimination among the political establishment in Belfast.

“Fianna Fáil’s hope is that the public will give the political establishment another chance with implementing this deal, but if the main parties revert again to the games of the last four years, it is not clear how many more chances they will get.”