Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Northern Ireland Secretary Paterson slammed for Good Friday Agreement comment

By Claire O'Boyle

Former Secretary of State Owen Paterson has come under fire for supporting an article that said the Good Friday Agreement had "run its course".

The Conservative MP, who held the Northern Ireland post for more than two years from 2010, was branded "beyond irresponsible" by shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer for retweeting the opinion piece.

Owen Smith, shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, added: "What an extraordinarily reckless and irresponsible thing to repeat, Owen. Having been NI Secretary, you can't really mean it, can you?"

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said Mr Paterson should have been "better across his brief", while Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong said his input was "premature and unhelpful".

"To support this message and share it on Twitter is more than stupid," said Mr McGlone. "Good Friday is an internationally binding Agreement, and the British and Irish Governments are there to be its upholders, they are its co-guarantors. To do this was silly, it was stupid. But given his strong stance on Brexit, I can't say I'm surprised."

The article, written in the Daily Telegraph by Belfast Telegraph columnist Ruth Dudley Edwards, said: "Realists believe the Good Friday Agreement has served its purpose and run its course, leaving behind the unintended consequence of enshrining sectarianism in the political process. Rationally, Ireland and the UK should face the truth and begin a renegotiation and updating of the Good Friday Agreement."

Strangford MLA Ms Armstrong criticised the Tory MP's retweet, and said: "Given that Mr Paterson hasn't actually been involved in these talks, his input certainly hasn't been helpful here. Yes, there have been problems in our politics, but at least we have had the Good Friday Agreement there to work from as a baseline.

"To suggest it is null and void because Sinn Fein and the DUP failed to get a deal over the line is a little premature, and certainly not helpful."

Belfast Telegraph

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