A comprehensive political deal has been reached in Belfast that has saved Anglo-Irish relations from sliding yet further into turmoil as a result of a disagreement over the national status of actress Saoirse Úna Ronan.
The agreement sees the government of the Republic of Ireland retain all of Ronan’s earnings while its British counterpart will be permitted to continue its practice of claiming Ronan as a UK citizen whenever she sees some international success.
The deal, which followed 10 weeks of talks, will also establish a new international body to monitor the status of Irish citizens who are referred to as British by the mainstream press in that country.
The Irish will argue that the revenue generated by Ronan, believed to be in the region of €53 million in 2015, will be used to subsidise public services in an increasingly cash strapped Northern Ireland. However, a government spokesperson was quoted as saying that “it’s far too early to know at the moment where this money will actually end up.”
Downing Street had always insisted that without an agreement on these individuals, relations between the two states could run into difficulty were a British exit from the European Union to occur following a referendum to be held on the issue some time in 2017.
David Cameron said Friday’s breakthrough marked a turning point for Northern Ireland.
He said: “The agreement secures sustainability for Northern Ireland’s budget, sets a precedent for successful actors from the region and deescalates the situation with regard to threats made by paramilitary groups on the matter.”
Ireland’s foreign minister and co-chair at the talks, Charles Flanagan, hailed the deal as putting devolved government and peace “on a more sustainable footing” that would build the “reconciled, prosperous Northern Ireland its people deserve”.
The agreement is also expected to provide a framework by which further compromises can be made in cases where other Irish citizens, Colin Farrell and Michael Fassbender among them, achieve international success.
- Seán O’Reilly