NI Executive needs to restore stability and implement all of New Decade New Approach

17 Jun 2021



17 JUNE 2021

Speaking on behalf of the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU Assistant General Secretary Owen Reidy said:

“Another crisis in the stability of devolution has been thankfully averted. The Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has always supported devolution and we continue to do so. Having locally accountable politicians making decisions is in our view the best way forward.

“We also fully endorsed the New Decade New Approach Agreement of January 2020. Congress has always advocated for a rights based return to devolution. Only by committing to respect and implement equality and human rights obligations will the Executive truly deliver for all of society.

“There is something in the agreement for everyone but not everyone will like all parts of the agreement. In Northern Ireland, where we have divided politics, the binary and zero-sum, ‘you win - I lose’ approach has been proven not to work. Such an approach is corrosive and prevents true reconciliation and partnership.

“We welcome that this latest crisis has been averted and the opportunity that this creates must now be embraced. The UK government’s undertaking (to legislate for the cultural package in Annex E should the Assembly fail to do so by September 2020), while serving to avoid a collapse in the political institutions, does not address the fundamental problem we face. It is essential that our local political parties accept that having reached an agreement, they must shift their focus to implementing that agreement. For too long in Northern Ireland, political parties reach agreements and fail to honour and implement them, and think that they can continue with rounds of negotiations to implement existing agreements.

“As trade unionists we know when we negotiate an agreement, it must be honoured by both sides and when there is a disagreement about its interpretation, there must be an adequate dispute resolution machinery to assist. It should be no different with devolution. The UK government must now also legislate for the commitments in the New Decade New Approach Agreement to maintain and sustain the institutions should another crisis arise.

“We call on the NI Executive to also, now, prioritise workers and their rights as we emerge from the pandemic. Workers across a range of sectors have literally kept Northern Ireland going during the pandemic. In New Decade New Approach there are some important sections on improving workers’ rights, economic rights and finally, albeit 23 years later, a Bill of Rights. These issues must now be progressed by a NI Executive which is committed to real power sharing and compromise. To demonstrate this, they must honour and implement every part of New Decade New Approach and agree a programme to implement each and every section without delay.

“We also reserve our right to demand that a future British government act on these important clauses in the agreement if local politicians fail us.”