‘Consent’ essential to fate of the UK says former Welsh and Northern Ireland Secretary
The principle of consent is essential whether the UK stays together or splits up, a former Secretary of State for both Wales and Northern Ireland has said.
Baron Murphy who was MP for Torfaen until 2015 was speaking in a debate on the future of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the House of Lords.
The life peer, whose father was of Irish descent, suggested that being a Unionist did not necessarily mean insisting that Northern Ireland stay within the union, an it should be up to them whether they stayed or went.
“In Wales, where I live and which I used to represent, I am a passionate unionist,” he said. “I want the union to continue in Wales, Scotland and England.
“In Northern Ireland, it is a matter for the Northern Irish people to decide.”
He added: “What is not changing, and cannot be changed, is the principle of consent. That is the absolute bedrock of what happened in Northern Ireland with all these different agreements. That is crucial: the people of Northern Ireland must decide their future themselves.
“It is not for the British Government or the Irish Government to decide; it is for the people of Northern Ireland.”
Paul Murphy, who oppose devolution in 1979 before backing it in 1997, said that the UK had changed and that they should all re-examine and re-think the Good Friday agreement to ensure that it still reflected the world of a quarter of a century later.
“We now live in a devolved United Kingdom. Scotland and Wales are devolved, and there is a movement to try to ensure there is more devolution in England itself,” he said.
“The noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, came up with his report and my own party is holding a commission with Gordon Brown on the future of the union. All these things mean that change is likely to come about to reflect the new position of a devolved United Kingdom.
“That principle of devolution, and the benefits that come with it, must also apply to Northern Ireland, which should have a properly devolved government with all the advantages Scotland, Wales and possibly parts of England will have.”
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