By Jason Michael

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness has stepped down as deputy First Minister of the North amidst yet another DUP money scandal. We now know that McGuinness is in fact a very sick man, but something else is going on and it’s messing with Brexit.

Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, has announced his resignation from the power sharing executive over First Minister Arlene Foster’s mishandling of the so-called “cash for ash” scandal – effectively shutting down the devolved Stormont government. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement – the increasingly fragile arrangement that brought the Troubles to an end – the province’s executive can function only with the participation of both sides of the agreement in their respective offices. This has a number of very serious ramifications for Belfast, London, and for Theresa May’s ramshackle Article 50 timetable.

Sinn Féin, like the Scottish National Party in government, has made its position on Brexit clear. Given that the people of the north of Ireland – unionist and nationalist – voted to remain within the European Union and the single market and now face being pulled out of Europe against their democratic will, it has insisted that the Northern Ireland Assembly have a say in the overall decision to ratify the results of the June referendum. Westminster dismissed this position, insisting that the British government had a royal prerogative. This has been challenged all the way to the Supreme Court and the British Prime Minister cannot move on Article 50 until this matter has been settled.

Behind all of this there is a question surrounding McGuinness’ real motivation. It was reported in the Irish Times that the North’s deputy FM was undergoing treatment for progressive and typically terminal amyloidosis – “a group of rare conditions caused by deposits of abnormal protein – amyloid – in tissues and organs throughout the body.” It is difficult to believe that Martin McGuinness, a former commander of the Provisional IRA and a recent contender for the presidency of Ireland, would feel the need to quit over the already well-known corruption of the Democratic Unionist Party. This latest scandal has more than likely been leapt upon by Sinn Féin as the ideal pretext for the resignation of McGuinness. But it doesn’t end here.

Sinn Féin and the deputy FM have refused to nominate a successor to ensure the normal running of the Northern Assembly, thus closing it down until elections can be held – yet another wee delay for the grand strategists of a London-led Brexit. Naomi Long, the leader of the anti-sectarian Alliance Party, has raised concerns that the Westminster government has been manipulating the situation in Belfast, deliberately favouring the DUP in an attempt to permanently suspend the Northern power sharing executive and restore direct rule. While this would solve May’s Brexit timetabling headache, it will also put an end to the Good Friday Agreement and result in the resumption of hostilities between the British Crown and an IRA that has never fully decommissioned – for precisely this reason.

If anything this tells us of the lengths Theresa May and the British government are willing to go in order to ensure Brexit follows the “Brexit means Brexit” Westminster agenda. In tendering his resignation and by Sinn Féin refusing to nominate a replacement time has been bought. Until this is resolved – either by a Supreme Court ruling or by an election – London cannot move forward with its unilateral Brexit idea. This would appear to be the real game that is being played around the resignation of McGuinness. His stepping down and this new stalling tactic looks to be a last-ditch attempt by the republicans to guarantee the peace of the Good Friday Agreement and stop a foreign enforced Brexit that will be deeply painful to the six counties.


McGuinness: Hard borders with Europe would be ‘hugely damaging’ to Northern Ireland

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