Listen: ‘Contrived’ and ‘imperfect’ GFA the only way of governing ‘contrived’ North, says SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has described the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) as a ‘contrivance’ that was negotiated as the only way of governing the equally ‘contrived’ North.

Mr. Eastwood told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster he feared it could take more than five years to restore the GFA’s power-sharing institutions at Stormont if Dublin and London didn’t urgently intervene to break the current impasse

Colum Eastwood.

Colum Eastwood.

“The GFA is recognised as a contrivance but so is Northern Ireland, so we have to have a way, a very awkward, uncomfortable and imperfect way, of finding a way to work together and to build relationships.

“That’s what the GFA is and I think we need to get back to it pretty quickly,” he said.

He said the British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) needed to be convened as an alternative to Direct Rule.

“Direct Rule in NI will effectively be rule by a committee of the Tory party and the DUP. Now, that is a return to unionist majority rule by the back door and that is how it will be seen,” he said.

He warned an extended hiatus in local rule would be exploited by those ambivalent or hostile to the peace settlement.

“This is a very, very serious time in our politics and our peace process and I don’t think anyone should underestimate how serious that is,” Mr. Eastwood said.