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“Will Britain’s ‘Keir’ Benefit Ireland?”

Dublin: Discussions are ongoing in political circles about how British Prime Minister Keir Starmer’s positions will impact neighbouring Ireland. Starmer, leading a Labour government after a decade and a half, presents a mix of policies that are both favourable and contentious for Ireland.

Starmer has shown a cooperative stance on certain issues with Ireland but has also taken a strong anti-Irish position on others, which he emphasised during his election campaign. Notably, he advocates for a harmonious relationship with Ireland regarding Brexit while also being a vocal critic of the previous Conservative governments’ policies.

Starmer has expressed his intent to ease diplomatic tensions between the UK and Ireland. However, issues related to Northern Ireland, which directly affect Ireland, could create friction. Observers suggest that the strength of UK-Ireland relations will largely depend on how these matters are handled.

Promisingly, Starmer aims to maintain close ties with the EU on foreign policy and defence, and he has indicated a willingness to sign a veterinary agreement to alleviate trade restrictions. His favourable approach to the Irish government is also influenced by the presence of many advisers of Irish heritage on his team.

Troubles Legacy Act

Starmer has announced plans to revisit the Conservative government’s Legacy of Troubles Act, which aimed to end historical inquiries into crimes committed in Northern Ireland between 1966 and 1998. Ireland has legally challenged this legislation, and it is anticipated that Starmer’s government will support Ireland’s position.

Starmer criticised the bill, stating it “does not have the support of any political party in Northern Ireland, nor does it have the support of victims’ groups.” He stressed the need for a solution that addresses the concerns of terrorism victims in Northern Ireland.

Island of Ireland and Starmer

Having served as Human Rights Adviser to the Northern Ireland Policing Board for five years, Starmer is well-versed in Northern Ireland’s political landscape. In a speech at Queen’s University Belfast last January, he expressed his enduring affection for the island of Ireland, recalling personal connections, including spending his first holiday in Northern Ireland and playing football in a Donegal GAA jersey.

Good Friday Agreement

Starmer has lauded the Good Friday Agreement as the Labour Party’s greatest achievement. He criticised Tory Prime Ministers for disregarding this agreement during and after Brexit negotiations. While Boris Johnson and Liz Truss adopted negative stances, Rishi Sunak has somewhat alleviated post-Brexit trade issues, raising hopes for improved relations under Starmer’s administration.

All peace processes in Northern Ireland operate under the co-guarantorship of the Irish and British governments, recognising the distinct aspirations of the two communities. This collaborative approach between Britain and Ireland, which persisted until the UK government led by David Cameron, was disrupted post-Brexit.

Anglo-Irish Relations

Former Irish ambassador to Britain, Bobby McDonagh, believes that the new government will enhance Anglo-Irish relations. He suggested that a collaborative approach, considering the main concerns of both nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland, will strengthen the ties between Britain and Ireland.

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