top of page

Day 17: The Saddest Day in the History of Unionism


The lead up to the 20th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement has so far been filled with the predictable backslapping and delirious nostalgia that has allowed many academics, elites and otherwise mediocre politicians to make a career out of being professional 'peace processors'.

We even have academics and PR people that tour the world talking about the great success of the Belfast Agreement, and spinning all sorts of fanciful yarns about how wonderful it was. At no point do they admit the patently obvious, that it has been a complete failure for the unionist community and far from being a settlement, it has been a toolkit for the nationalist community to advance their overall objectives using rapidly expansive terms like 'equality' and 'parity of esteem' as a Trojan horse.

Let us firstly address the most absurd point of propaganda about the Belfast Agreement; that without it we cannot have peace. If we break that down what it essentially means is that society must accede to the terms of this political deal, without question, or else you will have violence. How ludicrous and democratically offensive a notion is that?

You can be wholly committed to peace and the rule of law, as we all should be, but be opposed to the Belfast Agreement. That is a key point that unionists opposed to agreement must make regularly in order to counter the propaganda designed to fool people into believing that it is a simple choice between the Belfast Agreement or violence. That is a lie, and a maliciously contrived one at that.

The carefully contrived notion that 'peace' is dependent on the 'process' (Belfast Agreement) is why every time Sinn Fein come with the concession meter, demanding it is fed, their underlying message is 'this is essential, to protect the peace process'. In other words, the Belfast Agreement, and sustaining it has become synonymous with sustaining peace.

In that regard, how can anyone argue with those of us that point out that the Belfast Agreement was a capitulation to republican terrorism and provided 'goodies' in exchange for good behaviour by the IRA. As if they were dealing with merely misguided schoolchildren, the British Government bent democracy to suit the terrorist, betrayed the RUC, humiliated the military and perhaps worst of all, surrendered the most basic principles of justice in the morally corrosive OTR scheme. Tony Blair himself said that without the OTR scheme, there would have been no peace process. Let me rephrase for Mr Blair; we must surrender our most cherished principles of democracy and justice in order to appease the terrorist.

Like all children whose behaviour is bought with treats, they grow up selfish and with a sense of entitlement. And so the republican movement has grown up in the context of the Belfast Agreement with a sense of entitlement, a sense that they only must call their political demands 'rights' or assert that their latest concession is essential to 'protect the peace process' and all of sudden society must accede to their demands, because a failure to do so would 'risk the hard won peace'. It is the politics of hostage; it is the morally corrosive politics spawned by the Belfast Agreement.

Of course the Belfast Agreement has been elevated far above the status of a mere political deal cobbled together by mere mortals, oh no, it has the status of the holy writ. We even have religious connotations placed upon it by those that term it the 'Good Friday Agreement'. With this illusion, perpetuated by the participants to the agreement who regularly feed the myth by talking about the 'hand of history' and other such nonsense, one would think that the Belfast Agreement is sacrosanct. It is not. It is given life by a piece of legislation in the British Parliament and underpinned by a treaty.

The British parliament has the power to unilaterally amend or repeal the Northern Ireland Act at any time, and could also withdraw from the British-Irish treaty. Unionists opposed to the agreement need to be cognisant of this fact, and also aware that the quickest way to undermine the Belfast Agreement is simply to remove its key tenets one by one. The first to go should be mandatory coalition, and once that falls, then the agreement de-facto falls with it.

Brexit provides a unique opportunity to undermine the absurd 'spirit' of the Belfast Agreement, which creates some hybrid British-Irish status for Northern Ireland. This constitutionally offensive notion will be swept away by the fact that it is impossible for the 'harmonisation' agenda to continue within the context that an EU land border will separate the UK from the Republic of Ireland. I struggle to grasp why fellow Brexiteers are reluctant to accept that Brexit will undermine the Belfast Agreement, in my mind that was one of the key reasons- amongst many others- why I campaigned for Brexit with such enthusiasm.

There is going to have to be a customs border between NI and the Irish republic, it is impossible that there won't be. And this customs border will wash away the constructive ambiguity that underpins the Belfast Agreement.

On the 20th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement the praise should be reserved for those that campaigned for the NO campaign. Those people that were vilified, lambasted and hounded and yet were right all along about the on-way trajectory of the agreement. People like Bob McCartney and Jim Allister were the people who called it right, yet they won't get any plaudits or accolades.

On Tuesday 10 April I won't be one of those enthusiastically acting as a cheerleader for the Belfast Agreement, nor will I be joining in the ridiculous backslapping or carefully contrived nostalgia. Instead I will be content in the knowledge that the architecture of the Belfast Agreement is rapidly falling apart, all the while its supporters celebrate their 'achievement'. Nero fiddled as Rome burnt comes to mind.


Jamie Bryson is a unionist activist who is a regular contributor in the mainstream media on current affairs, and specifically on issues relating to loyalism. He lives in Donaghadee and has been a long time opponent of the peace process, regularly arguing that it is ‘peace with a gun to its head’.

#JamieBryson #20Years20Days #Unionism

bottom of page