Engagement with Dr. Duncan Morrow

The next item is engagement with Dr. Duncan Morrow, director of community engagement at Ulster University. On behalf of the committee I welcome Dr. Morrow to today's session. We are having a number of engagements today which are focused on relations between the State and Northern Ireland and we would very much welcome his contribution.

Before we begin I will read a note on privilege. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to this committee. If they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence in relation to a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise nor make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her, or it identifiable.

Dr. Duncan Morrow

I thank the committee for the huge privilege of being asked to come here today. I am speaking in a personal capacity, having spent a long time working on the issue of reconciliation and community relations in Northern Ireland. That is the basis on which I have tried to frame my remarks. I also teach politics in the university, so I have an interest in the consequences and the procedure as to how we go forward. I produced a very long paper of which the second half is essentially irrelevant because it just provides background material. The committee will be glad to know that I will speak to the first part only. I will speak to the first part and then perhaps read a little bit of it, because it is something worth reading into.

The first thing to observe is that we have arrived at the crisis in Northern Ireland with almost no preparation. The issues have emerged after Brexit. Even in the context of the referendum itself, the issues of Northern Ireland largely surfaced through being raised by the Taoiseach and former Prime Ministers. Inside Northern Ireland it was remarkably quiet. The turnout figure was very low at 62%. The lowest turnouts anywhere in the UK were in the constituencies of Belfast West and Foyle. It was in areas that voted to remain that people were least likely to vote. It has subsequently turned into more of an issue and we have caught up with it. That is a problem because the preparation has been very limited.

The second thing to note is that this issues hits across the pivotal institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. I do not need to labour the point that the Agreement has been the central development in Irish-British relationships over the last 50 years and has framed Northern Irish politics since then. I have written in my submission that "Reconciliation replaced conflict, dialogue and partnership replaced conflict and enmity and mutual accommodation replaced mutual antagonism". These have been huge, historic shifts and I believe they were understood to be historic in Ireland. The Governments were central to the Agreement and the reason that Brexit matters so much is that anything which divides the purposes of the British and Irish Governments is very serious for Northern Ireland, perhaps even more serious than the people of Northern Ireland take it to be. It is also, perhaps, more serious than the people of the United Kingdom take it to be.

The Governments framed these talks. That is the truth of the matter. The Anglo-Irish agreement process, the framework documents, the negotiation behind these things, the sponsorship of the talks, the mediation in crisis and so on were all sponsored through inter-Governmental partnership, which was a critical element of the talks. There were built on a series of international principles, human rights not being the least of these, but which included treating citizens of the two countries equally within both, the opening of borders and freedom of movement. These principles may have been implicit or explicit but they were nevertheless there.

I have identified at least six dimensions of inter-Governmental issues which seem to be critical and explicit in the Agreement. These dimensions are: the question of citizenship and how it is defined; questions of consent on the Border and of identity and constitutional nationalism; changes to the Irish Constitution; the parity of esteem doctrine which says that Britishness and Irishness will be treated with parity of esteem; the North-South Ministerial Council and the North-South bodies which relate to it; and the British-Irish Council. It strikes me that this is not just a Northern Irish issue but an inter-Governmental issue and that the Good Friday Agreement is touched by anything which changes those things.

While we have had continuous devolution in theory since 2007, we have had at least eight mini-breakdowns all of which have required the mediation of the Governments working together in order to put the Assembly together again in some form or other. The framework of the Good Friday Agreement was that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. We run the risk that when some things become not agreed, everything becomes not agreed again. It all unravels.

This is where I might read some of my submission. I tried to frame my remarks around three questions. The first was whether any party to the Good Friday Agreement have any formal intention of abandoning it. My view is that it seems certain that for the vast majority of voters, and the Government, in the UK, the decision by the UK to leave the European Union was not taken with any intention of breaking or abandoning the Good Friday Agreement. In some ways this highlights a difference between the received view of the Good Friday Agreement in Great Britain as a largely successful pragmatic compromise specific to Northern Ireland and that on the island of Ireland, where it is understood as a dramatic and historic exercise in constitutional and political innovation between two states, achieved through very delicate compromises and balances. Even the Good Friday Agreement’s detractors on the island of Ireland, and there are many, acknowledge its significance.

For voters and Government in the UK, any impact on Ireland is unintended collateral, but not malicious. We may therefore have to reckon with the fact that the potential implications of the decision to leave the EU for the Good Friday Agreement and hence of Ireland North and South are not fully understood or acknowledged in the UK itself. If this is true, this would mean that there has been no preparation for the extreme delicacy and attention to detail required to renegotiate its fragile balances within a short timeframe. More importantly, the assumption in the UK is that the Good Friday Agreement has to be altered to bring it into line with the prior order issue of Brexit.

The assumption in many parts of Ireland is that Brexit must be designed in such a way as to protect the existing commitments of the Good Friday Agreement. This mindset difference is, in and of itself, a significant challenge. All of this is a significant challenge to any concept of reconciliation, which remains the purpose, core and at the heart of what the Agreement was to deliver.

Does the UK’s decision to leave the EU create significant problems and challenges for the structures and assumptions on which the Good Friday Agreement is built? The answer is "Yes". The Agreement was only possible because nothing was agreed until everything was agreed. In this context, unilateral action by one signatory inevitably has consequences for the overall ecological balance and sustainability of the entire deal. I have outlined four levels at which I see these challenges arising. The first is at the tacit and implicit level. In terms of the underlying assumptions, unilateral action by one party in a formal partnership has inevitable consequences for other parties. When that party is a government, inevitably, those shocks are greater.

Second, it is clear that the sense of shock and concern about the Good Friday Agreement is not equally recognised even by those who opposed or supported Brexit. Those who support Brexit see that as illegitimate interference in a sovereign decision, with the potential that they would be resented. Those who hold their Irish citizenship as their primary identity or who value the international partnership of the Agreement have exhibited shock, confusion, anger and grief. Above all, there is an underlying feeling of betrayal in that commitments made had been broken without a second thought, and with indifference to the consequences for peace and the sacrifices that were made to get us this far. In a divided society, the most important aspect is that these very different emotional reactions polarise and divide, with huge consequences.

Third, at institutional level, the Good Friday Agreement was above all a new compact on how Britishness and Irishness would relate in Northern Ireland, in Ireland and between these islands. The institution of physical borders, trade borders and cultural borders of any sort is an unanticipated development of huge implications. Given that the Border is now caught up in global economic and political questions, it may not be possible to make accommodations which are first and foremost designed to meet local requirements.

That in turn raises the unique citizenship arrangements in Northern Ireland. The Agreement establishes the birthright of everyone born in Northern Ireland to be British, Irish or both as they may choose, in perpetuity and aside from all questions of constitutional change. Equal treatment and access to goods and services is guaranteed to both. The State must act with parity of esteem to both traditions and is committed to cultural rights. Furthermore, Ireland has a special interest in Northern Ireland and has an established State presence through a Department of Foreign Affairs, DFA, office in Northern Ireland. The President of Ireland makes informal unheralded visits to communities, institutions and events without obstruction. The consequence is that both Britain and Ireland, and through Ireland the European Union, will have an enduring and unique shared interest in the people and territory of Northern Ireland that makes it distinct, and only operable through co-operation and mutuality.

The Good Friday Agreement states that "the functioning of the Assembly and the North-South Ministerial Council are so closely inter-related that the success of each depends on that of the other". Unsurprisingly, the North-South Ministerial Council was deigned to "consider the European Union dimension of relevant matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programmes and proposals under consideration in the EU framework. Arrangements to be made to ensure that the views of the Council are taken into account and represented appropriately at relevant EU meetings".

Exactly what happens now is unclear. What is certain is that without the agreed North-South Ministerial Council and cross-Border bodies funcitioning there is no constitutional basis for the Assembly to function. At its most acute, North-South co-operation has been critical in justice, policing and security. The Patten commission explicitly promoted co-operation with the Garda Síochána. The Fresh Start agreement set up a joint task force, and there are regular cross-Border actions against crime, including terrorism and smuggling. Those are some of the constitutional issues.

With regard to principles, the European Union is built on a number of core assumptions which might be held to be implicit in the Good Friday Agreement and its development. Some of them are explicit such as the human rights charter. In broad terms, these can be characterised as human rights, the four freedoms, and equality of opportunity. Given that they are implicit rather than explicit, the way in which they interact can be complex, but there can be little doubt that any fundamental derogation from any of them

threatens the balance of a divided society.

Technically, the European convention is an instrument of the Council of Europe, not the European Union. Nonetheless, any threat to unilaterally alter the UK’s relationship with the convention and the court would have significant potential ramifications for the Good Friday Agreement where it is a core element in the construction of the institutions. The four freedoms are not explicitly addressed in the Good Friday Agreement. However, it could be argued that their spirit - freedom of movement for labour, capital goods and services - have been the central practical outworking of the Agreement in Ireland. Any change to those freedoms will alter the lived experience of post-Agreement Ireland in a fundamental way, challenging the Agreement less at the level of its technical formulation than at the level of lived experience.

That takes me to the social and economic level. The Agreement has had a profound effect on the social and economic life of Ireland, North and South. Any unintended consequences of Brexit will therefore impact not only on the relationships of sovereign states but on the quality of life of communities and families and on the economic future of the island. While economic and business relationships, including cross-Border enterprises, thriving trade and extensive infrastructure, have taken most of the attention, the social implications for cross-Border commuters, cross-Border families and communities rejoined since the Agreement through programmes such as PEACE and INTERREG should not be overlooked. In addition, any hard land border between the UK and the EU will be placed precisely where the costs of these changes will be greatest and where resistance is most deep rooted and determined. The geography of the Brexit referendum in Northern Ireland matters, posing the question of how any border could be imposed, who would impose it, how tariffs are to be collected and monitored and how immigration is to be controlled.

The search for solutions to these problems is urgent, but it is likely to be time consuming and politically contentious. Furthermore, there is no agreed Northern Ireland position on these matters and, in so far as they touch on issues of identity and constitution, there is unlikely to be one. The fact that the EU has established that these issues are prior to any discussion of trade must be correct, but the potential for this to cause growing frustration in the UK and among those supportive of Brexit in Northern Ireland should not be underestimated. Furthermore, any prospect that as a result the UK would crash out of the EU is potentially disastrous for Ireland in the context where these issues still are not addressed and there is growing recrimination.

Some steps to be taken suggest themselves in a practical way. The two most serious threats to peace in every divided society and therefore in Northern Ireland are fundamental political uncertainty, which is filled by people taking action, and significant unilateral action in the face of partnership where people believe that it is broken. Brexit raises both of those issues in an unexpectedly vivid form. It is therefore incumbent on all parties to move past the "Keep calm and carry on" phased to the next phase which my be characterised as "Let us now make plans to address these issues before they become unmanageable". Failure to do that will leave both uncertainty and mutual recrimination in terms of partnership in place, with the potential for it to fester.

By raising the question of Ireland as a prior order issue, the EU should make clear that its priority regarding Ireland is sustaining and growing reconciliation. This could potentially become a shared goal of negotiations if the United Kingdom could also be encouraged to see sharing reconciliation in Ireland as the goal of negotiations rather than simply a question of protecting national trade interests. If reconciliation is the goal, and the protection of reconciliation in Northern Ireland, North and South and between these islands requires flexibility and unique arrangements, then both sides should be encouraged to signal that these will be explored in-depth. The substance of the negotiations should be to identify the potential incompatibilities between the existing treaties and agreements and Brexit; and to establish an agenda for resolving these issues, which includes the negotiators, the Governments and the political parties in Northern Ireland.

There is no consensus in Northern Ireland about Brexit. Any attempt to force one in advance is likely to result in lowest common denominator minimalist agreements leaving all of the contentious issues unaddressed. Northern Ireland must be present in its plurality in the negotiations. The alternative is that any deal will have to be imposed with considerable long-term consequences. The existing frameworks of the Agreement - the North-South bodies, the British-Irish Council and the intergovernmental conference - could be focused on problem solving around this issue. There is also an urgent need for renewed civic voice for solution finding in this situation.

One of the key issues to be addressed is the nature of the Border and its management. There is no point anymore in simply saying the Border could run down the Irish Sea or it could be hard or it could be soft; we need to get down to that discussion. The other key issues are the future competences of the three strands within the Good Friday Agreement and their interlockingness because those matter. These are citizenship rights and equality issues that underpin the Good Friday Agreement and which probably need to be reiterated in some form; trade and economic relationships; and the ongoing support for reconciliation, including three areas which seem to still be the past, present and future with the frameworks of dealing with the past, the fresh start and a shared future, in other words, building for a different future.

I offer apologies because I must leave the meeting at 12.30 p.m., but I will read the transcript. Dr. Morrow talks of the special status for Northern Ireland, but I did not get his opening remarks. Many have raised the issue. Does the Good Friday Agreement have to be renegotiated in full or in part as a result of Brexit? With regard to the special status of Northern Ireland, we have brought it up here on previous occasions, and I will repeat again what has been said about the precedent. Has Dr. Morrow done any research into the special status of East Germany, and its citizens, which had special status within the EU because of its unique relationship with West Germany, which was in the European Economic Community at the time? We should look to the precedent of Cyprus and northern Cyprus, which is currently under negotiations between the UN, the EU and - ironically - Britain with regard to Cypriot reunification. Consider those citizens in northern Cyprus who are treated as EU citizens even through they live in the part of Cyprus not under the control of the government of southern Cyprus. They are citizens of an EU country, which is the whole of Cyprus. Has Dr. Morrow researched the precedents for all of that in respect of citizenship and how Northern Ireland changed people's ability to be Irish and British citizens or both and how post-Brexit they are going to be EU citizens or non-EU citizens? In making the case for the special status of Northern Ireland and most important the citizens of Northern Ireland this committee must give recommendations using precedents or other examples that have already been set.

I welcome Dr. Morrow. I have a question that may stray into territory in which our esteemed colleague Senator McDowell would have much expertise. The Good Friday Agreement is enshrined in international law and it has standing within international law. Is there an option for the Government to challenge any elements of an agreement that would threaten, or be in contravention of, the Good Friday Agreement in international law? Would Dr. Morrow see potential there in a doomsday scenario if we needed to do that? In a hierarchy of rights would the Good Friday Agreement take precedence over a potential settlement that might arise in Mr. Michel Barnier's negotiations?

I thank Dr. Morrow for the comprehensive paper and presentation. Senator O'Reilly has raised an interesting point. It is one I have tried to tease out in various fora regarding the primacy of the Good Friday Agreement and the unilateral move from the British side that - to quote the European Parliament's Constitutional Affairs Committee - "altered" the Good Friday Agreement. I may be on to a loser here, since I have not heard Senator McDowell express an opinion on this, but given the legal status of it should there be cause for concern that this unilateral move does not just potentially alter the Good Friday Agreement but seeks, in a way, to trump or precede the votes taken North and South? Does the Irish State have cause for concern that elements of the Good Friday Agreement, of which it is co-guarantor and which people have endorsed through referenda, is under threat of alteration? Is there merit within that argument? Dr. Morrow has said in his paper that an arrangement almost exists already within the Good Friday Agreement for special status. This may be arguable within a political context but within the broader economic and social context I am not so sure that I am convinced of that just yet. Does a referendum in Britain effectively trump a referendum that was held here on the Good Friday Agreement?

I just want to have Dr. Morrow's opinion and there are no right or wrong answers here, which is the safety net for us all when it comes to making comment. How high up are the topics of the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland and the old Irish scenario in Theresa May's English priority list for this situation? It is as if they are making things up as they go along. The Brexit referendum result had not been perceived and no thought had been put in to it prior to the referendum taking place. The UK has now inherited a quagmire of potential problems, issues and scenarios going forward with the Brexit negotiations. I believe that if there was a one to one with Theresa May one would hear a lot of points, problems and issues before the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland or Ireland gets a mention. What is Dr. Morrow's opinion on this? From the UK's perspective, I believe that at the moment a tripartite or even sitting down to renegotiate the Good Friday Agreement is a non-runner. Ireland is negotiating as one of 27 member states and this is the end of the story. We are not allowed to go and negotiate individually. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom's negotiations so what input would the North have?

I wanted to make one further brief point. An element of the Good Friday Agreement agrees that there would be no change in the constitutional status unless it is consented to by the people. Does Brexit poses a threat to the constitutional arrangements that exist under the Good Friday Agreement if it is altered?

Since I am coming under a bit of pressure to say something I should throw in a couple of my own thoughts and maybe Dr. Morrow would address them.

The question of the primacy of the Good Friday Agreement is primacy over what. At the moment it has the status of an international treaty, it is registered in the UN and is accepted in The Hague, the EU has endorsed it and so on. It has that status but we are now dealing with an exercise by the UK of a right that was given under the Lisbon treaty to opt out of the European Union. Ireland was party to that treaty also. We agreed that every member state had the right to leave. We did not say to the United Kingdom: "Sorry, you do not have a right to leave unless you get our consent." There is a complexity in that regard.

The second interesting point is the Good Friday Agreement acknowledges that both Governments recognise it is the right of a majority of people in Northern Ireland to determine one question only; whether the North remains in the UK or - with a single binary choice - becomes part of a united Ireland. It never said that Northern Ireland has the right to join the United States of America or to go in or out of the European Union. The choice that is guaranteed to the people of Northern Ireland under the Good Friday Agreement is, as I see it, never a right for them to say they are sick of the European Union and they are getting out or that they want to join with Iceland or Scotland or whatever. It is a binary choice.

It is not an absolute constitutional autonomy which is given to them.

We have to remember that Mrs. Theresa May was a lukewarm supporter of the remain campaign. The previous Prime Minister resigned when he lost the referendum. Mrs. May formed a Government to implement the people's wishes in Britain. We cannot regard her as the person who has torn up the Good Friday Agreement. I think it is a negative view of her and that the pro-Brexit lobby was entirely indifferent to and negligent about the Irish issue. She was not part of it. She is now trying to pick up the pieces and to keep the Conservative coalition together until she gets her overall majority, in which case she will have a bit more elbow-room and a mandate to reach compromises. As I see it - just looking at the good things at the moment - the maintenance of the Good Friday Agreement is stated to be a British priority. It is also stated to be an EU and an Irish priority. We should not get up in a heap and say that destroying it is somebody's priority.

Dr. Duncan Morrow

I agree.

In such circumstances, the first issue I raised relates to what the Good Friday Agreement has primacy over. The second is that our aim is to reconcile the inevitable Brexit with the Good Friday Agreement by having as soft an impact as us possible on that agreement and its underlying values, as mentioned in Dr. Morrow's papers. I hope I am not being too controversial.

Dr. Duncan Morrow

Not at all.

I thank Dr. Morrow for his presentation. I totally agree that the key issues regarding the Agreement must include the nature of the Border, its management and the future competences of the three strands within the Agreement - citizenship, rights and equality. The latter are so important, as are trade, economic relations and support for reconciliation. In Dr. Morrow's experience, what is the energy from Westminster and what is the energy from the Irish Government? Coming back to the priority, because this is so important, particularly for Ireland in general, what is Dr. Morrow's experience of it? In a perfect situation, what does he feel should really be focused on today? What are the beginning stages? What should be worked on at present? What is the timescale in all of that? We do not have much time, which is a bit worrying.

Dr. Duncan Morrow

I hope I answer all the questions. If I miss one, Senators can remind me. In some ways, the questions run through each other.

The risk to the Agreement structure is, in my view, not that anybody has intended to break it - the Senator is right and everybody is very aware of it - but that it seems to be inversely proportional to the problem. In that context, I go back to a children's game, Jenga, whereby if one pulls out one strut from somewhere in the middle of the stack, the whole lot collapses on the table. That is my fear. It is not on the level that anybody has a plan; it is that, by pulling this out, one sets off a dynamic.

On the energies and priorities, it is crystal clear that it was not a priority for London. The core priority is renegotiating the relationship with Brussels, and the immigration and trade issues that arise from that are London's absolute priority. The difficulty is that the Northern Ireland settlement was based on a totally different principle. The Ireland settlement was based on the principle that getting control over borders was done through international co-operation, not by putting up big fences. This principle is to get control over borders by putting up big fences. That would really be running a coach and four through the whole structure of what the Good Friday Agreement is about. That is what we are wrestling with here. How do we actually deal with that?

Senator Mark Daly asked if the Agreement has to be renegotiated. It is very difficult to put the challenge we face in particular terms. However, if we wish to retain the core principles of the Good Friday Agreement, we are going to have to do much detailed negotiation about how those principles are adjusted for Brexit. If we do not do the detailed negotiation about those things, then Brexit will unravel the principles of the Good Friday Agreement. That is the problem. It is urgent that we sit round a table and start dealing with these matters in detail. The John Hume doctrine of all those years ago was that nothing was agreed until everything was agreed. All those strands and different dimensions were in an overall package. Nobody got everything that he or she wanted, but everybody got enough to allow matters to move forward. If the Border is taken out of the equation, it strikes me that all the other balances are unpicked. I am asked to speak about reconciliation here. If one wants to protect it, we need to really look at this because the potential for creating much offence-giving resentment on either side of this is pretty large.

Somebody talked about the differing energies in the different capitals. One of the most striking things to me personally, as I go around the North, is the difference in energy between nationalists and unionists, or between remainers and leavers. Many people who are instinctively unionist seem to think that we just need to get on with this, move ahead and get it done. On the other side are the people who really see this as the difficulty it is and are alarmed about what it means in practice - potentially a hard Border and so on.

To go back to the geography of it, the hard Border seems to me to be a fiction in practice, unless somebody is going to put in place large fences and do something about imposing it, in which case we do not have either a hard or soft Border but, rather, a theoretical frontier that is a non-reality. I do not know what the context of that is - I am starting to think of a lawless space in the middle of this island - but the consequence is something to wrestle with, or else one can go back to saying that we will have a hard Border. We have to assume that everybody in the places where the hard Border is imposed will like that and will not seek to resist it. I think that is a difficult proposition in light of our history.

It is not about being alarmist; it is about getting past the nicety of staying calm and starting to really identify the very specific practical problems which have to be looked at here, which is why I said there are five things. The reason I have not come up with a proposal on them is that everything we learned about negotiation here is that one names the heads of agreement and then sits round the frames and tries to fill them in such a way that one can accommodate people in a meaningful way. I do not know whether London has the time, energy or effort to do it. It certainly is not an attack on Mrs. May or saying that she has an agenda to break this down. The consequences of neglect for us are that dynamics start to emerge which, for example, make the assembly in the North and the North-South bodies non-viable and raise various other aspects of the Border question. That starts to amount to a serious set of issues.

Does the Agreement have to be renegotiated? It is probably not the proper term, but we have to talk about how the Agreement is read into the current circumstances, and that will look very like negotiation. I do not know whether there has to be another signatory on the other end. I am certainly not proposing that language of renegotiation but, to be clear, we need to look at that.

That might be something that needs to be done. That question needs to be looked at in detail and we need to ask whether it can be done within the framework of the existing agreements or not. If it can, it should be; and if it cannot, it needs to be acknowledged and we need to move on one way or the other. That would be an important piece of work to do. Can the Good Friday Agreement and its principles be retained within the current frameworks after Brexit or not? I have not done that work.

While I am open to contradiction here, to my knowledge the citizenship arrangements in the Good Friday Agreement are globally unique. We have the most open citizenship arrangement anywhere in the world as far as I know. The formulation of it is that it is the birth right of everybody born in Northern Ireland to be British, Irish or both as they may choose. In other words we can shift between them and furthermore that would be maintained in any further jurisdiction. There is an ongoing inter-penetration of Britishness and Irishness in Northern Ireland which will not stop and which is territorially defined by the Six Counties. That means it is special. I do not know what the language is. Maybe we have to find another language that is not special. That citizenship arrangement does not apply to any other territory on the island of Ireland or the island of Great Britain. That makes it different. There is also the right to shift which Ireland got established through the negotiations such that if Northern Ireland becomes part of Ireland it will be integrated immediately as a member of the European Union. That also makes it unique.

It strikes me that to a certain extent we are dancing on the head of a pin about the specialness issue. We can start to talk about where it is special and where is it not special, but it is certainly different. That is my starting point. It does not really help in a divided society to try to find solutions that do not take account of that difference. The obvious alternative is to have a referendum and have a straightforward discussion on the Constitution one way or another, but that will still not solve the issue of this inter-penetration.

On the specialness of this, I am stuck between my wish and my clarity that this has to be done if one wants a way out of it, and my - if not despair - certainly concern that it is not a priority. So I do not know if it is just a case that nothing will go or whether that then turns into a slow car crash. However, the previous safety net of working on reconciliation, joint institutions and the governments resolving problems when they reached a certain level of escalation are no longer certain to me, as someone living in the North. That creates uncertainty. Uncertainty in ethnically divided societies is the biggest single factor that drives people into polarity. The second one is the loss of trust between the key partners; that is the unilateralism one.

Structurally, looking at this strictly academically, both of those conditions now apply; we have uncertainty and we have a degree of difference because, as the Senator said, Ireland is not even negotiating its own deal but is negotiating it through the European Union. We have a degree of unilateralism and resentment on both sides. I am sure all members of the committee watched the British reaction to Mr. Juncker's speech, which was pretty negative in suggesting that this will become a complicated and difficult negotiation.

I am simply saying we are special and we need attention. While Northern Ireland is not the United Kingdom's priority, one of its priorities for the past 50 years has been not to get bogged down in Northern Ireland. We are heading to a place where we may end up getting bogged down in Northern Ireland. It is incumbent on me to say that. We need to put in place something to deal with that at the level of seriousness it had. I do not think we are manufacturing this. We are actually saying that we ought to do this now because otherwise it will take far longer than it needs to.

On the status issue, as Senator McDowell said, it is not clear that there is a simple legal challenge there. There are many different complex legal Acts, the Lisbon treaty being one. The United Kingdom Supreme Court determined that Brexit could proceed, but it is quite possible that as the negotiations come forward there are certain kinds of Brexit that actually contradict all of those laws and make it impossible. I think we are still stuck within a kind of a case-law situation and we do not know.

What court will hear the case?

Dr. Duncan Morrow

That is another thing, to which court would it be taken? Nevertheless we know legal issues are certainly engaged. How that happens will depend on the type of Brexit.

Ireland is now upfront; the European Union has said it is upfront. After the election we will need to see what negotiating position the United Kingdom takes and what its approach to this will be. If it accepts that Ireland is upfront, much of this may become possible to deal with it. If the United Kingdom rejects that, then paradoxically the Northern Ireland issue will move up the agenda rather than go down the agenda, but it will do so on an emotional basis and it will become more complicated. It may be that cool heads will prevail and we will start to move on trying to get some detail on this.

However, if we get the alternative scenario where two years into the process there is no budget deal and we are facing the crash-out doomsday scenario, then Northern Ireland really is in the middle of quite a difficult situation because it is about imposing hard borders where there is no agreement. It is about a series of divisions inside Northern Ireland which are reopening. Those are significant for all of us because we know what that can mean. I am not here wishing it, threatening it or even suggesting it is inevitable. However, I am saying that we know it is possible and we need to do everything we can to ensure we are going in the still direction that we have.

I thank Dr. Morrow for engaging with the committee. He has given us considerable food for thought. This is an ongoing process until we produce a report. If he has any other feedback or if anything occurs, he should feel free to provide that to the committee for our consideration.

Sitting suspended at 12.50 p.m. and resumed at 2 p.m.
Senator Neale Richmond took the Chair.