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Ireland’s Troubles will not return The response to the Protocol is needlessly hysterical

Don't assume the worst. (Leif Skoogfors/Corbis via Getty Images)

Don't assume the worst. (Leif Skoogfors/Corbis via Getty Images)


October 27, 2022   6 mins

The political climate in Northern Ireland has always been reflected in its graffiti. In nationalist and unionist areas, slogans and murals commemorating aspects of the Troubles are still common, though the paramilitary emphasis has declined in recent decades. Years ago, a particularly unsettling mural in Derry depicted a skeleton waving a Union Jack, dressed in army fatigues and trampling over dead Catholics on a battlefield. In the background, you could see the Bogside — a republican area of the city — razed to the ground and still burning.

Such provocative imagery may no longer exist, but today’s graffiti is just as revealing as ever. If you wander around the staunchly unionist areas of Belfast and Derry, you will note a few recurring phrases that express the extent of the opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol. “No Surrender”, which was once the common refrain, has been replaced by “No Irish Sea Border”. With Sinn FĂ©in now the largest political party in the region, and the Catholic population outnumbering Protestants for the first time, whisperings of a united Ireland are growing in volume. Sinn FĂ©in’s Michelle O’Neill has already spoken of a “unity referendum”, and the DUP’s Philip Brett has cautioned against seeing the most recent census as “some sort of mini-referendum on the position of Northern Ireland in the UK”.

At the same time, the graffiti in unionist areas is whispering its own refrains, often more ominous in tone. Just before Christmas last year, the phrase “war is needed” appeared on a gable wall in Newtownards, while port staff in Larne and Belfast were branded “active targets” in graffiti close to the Mourneview Community Centre. Such appalling threats — although the work of dissidents with no mandate from the Protestant community — are the more extreme manifestation of a siege mentality that has persisted since the Troubles. In the Fountain estate, a Protestant area on the largely Catholic west side of Derry’s River Foyle, one mural has remained unaltered for decades. It bears the words “Londonderry West Bank Loyalists Still Under Siege”.

The ongoing political turmoil in Westminster has only exacerbated this sense of uncertainty. Rishi Sunak is said to favour a more conciliatory approach to the Protocol, and has expressed concerns about the “stability of the situation”. His reappointed Northern Ireland Secretary, Chris Heaton-Harris, is currently holding talks at Stormont in an effort to restore the executive before tomorrow’s deadline. If he fails and an election is called, as seems certain, the impasse will surely persist into the new year.

Yet we should be wary of those with the tendency to catastrophise. For the past year, we have seen numerous commentators and politicians raising the spectre of a return to civil unrest. The late David Trimble wrote that the resentments generated by the Protocol could encourage “those who have engaged in past violence to take action again into their own hands”. More recently, Tony Blair has warned that “the issues at the heart of the Protocol have the capability of causing an enlarged trade conflict between the UK and the EU, or undermining the Good Friday Agreement — and quite possibly both”.

Such pessimism may be sincere, but it fails to consider that there are no straightforward solutions to this dispute. Like so many agreements relating to Northern Ireland, the Protocol was always a kind of fudge. Boris Johnson repeatedly used the phrase “over my dead body” when asked about the possibility of a border down the Irish Sea but, as Lord Frost has since admitted, the Government always knew the treaty was “far from perfect”.

Is a return to violence a genuine possibility? I’m inclined to believe that such talk is often politically motivated and needlessly alarmist. The conditions which gave rise to the Troubles in the late Sixties were incomparable with the tensions that exist today. And although threats from paramilitary dissident groups are not to be taken lightly, there is simply no desire among the general population for a return to those terrible years.

After all, the Troubles were not brought about solely due to grievances rooted in identity, but rather the tangible inequalities of a state that was built upon sectarianism. The Fourth Home Rule Bill, passed in 1920 and implemented the following year, saw Ireland partitioned in such a way that Protestant dominance could be guaranteed. Stormont was, as James Craig was later to assert, “a Protestant parliament for a Protestant people”.

By the Sixties, there had been decades of discrimination. Those with Catholic-sounding surnames were accustomed to having their job applications overlooked. Living conditions for Catholics were generally dire. Yet Westminster cared little for the injustices taking place on its doorstep. In his book Provos (1997), the journalist Peter Taylor estimates that the time spent discussing Northern Ireland in the House of Commons “averaged less than two hours a year”.

As the area with the highest Catholic population, Derry was always likely to be the location where civil unrest would first erupt. Resignation had given way to resentment, and the political gerrymandering was so egregious that it could not be ignored forever. The electoral lines had been rigged so that even though two-thirds of the city were Catholic, they could only elect eight out of the 20 councillors.

Yet for all that, the Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) — a civil rights group that formed in 1968 — was explicitly non-sectarian. Although Catholics were disproportionately affected by poor housing conditions, the problems extended to members of the working-class Protestant community. With the support of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), the DHAC scheduled a march on 5 October 1968 to protest against the unfair allocation of housing and jobs, and the injustices of electoral manipulation. The violence that ensued at this march is typically cited as the beginning of the Troubles.

Earlier this month, the surviving organisers gathered to commemorate their march at the location where it began: the Waterside railway station. A photograph of the key activists appeared in the Belfast Telegraph. It featured my uncle, Eamon Melaugh, along with Eamonn McCann and Dermie McClenaghan. Their march was not the first of its kind, but it was the first to be covered on TV, and therefore exposed the violence of the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) against the protesters. My uncle has explained to me that this was a deliberate tactic. He had contacted various journalists in the days leading up to the event, and from the outset he had seen it as an opportunity to lay bare the sectarianism of the state to an international audience.

In War and an Irish Town (1974), McCann describes how the organisers from the DHAC had relied on their new associates’ naivety to convince them to accept a route that would doubtless result in violent confrontation. He recalls a pep-talk my uncle had given to the DHAC members before meeting with the NICRA representatives in a room over a pub in William Street: “Remember — our main purpose here is to keep our grubby proletarian grip on this jamboree.”

“When I went out on the Saturday to march,” my uncle told me, “I knew what was coming. I had six white hankies in my pockets to act as bandages, and that’s exactly what they were used for. The police were all waiting for us with drawn batons. I selected that route to provoke them into violence. And I told the marchers: when our blood flows, Stormont goes.”

This was all a far cry from the circumstances of today. The unionist community is united in its condemnation of the Protocol, but would this threat to collective national identity be a justification for a return to violence? The possibility of terrorist activity is real and ongoing; only last month, there were flagrantly sectarian attacks on four Catholic homes in the village of Culnady. But at the risk of tempting fate, widespread civil unrest on the scale of the Troubles seems unimaginable.

That said, our political class would be advised to be more sensitive to the concerns of unionists who increasingly feel as though they are being sidelined. This isn’t simply a question of Northern Ireland’s businesses being subject to EU regulations, or even the economic impact of the Protocol; the constitutional implications are far more concerning.

Those familiar with Northern Ireland’s history will know that the prospect of a united Ireland has always provoked resistance in the form of direct action. The Sunningdale Agreement of 1973 was brought down by the Ulster Workers’ Council strike and terrorist attacks by the UDA and UVF. The Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, which gave the Irish government a role in the affairs of Northern Ireland, was greeted with mass strikes, rallies and civil disobedience from unionists. An effigy of Margaret Thatcher was burned outside Belfast City Hall.

This is the context in which Michelle O’Neill’s reference to a prospective “unity referendum” should be understood. Some unionists have vowed to leave Northern Ireland should a majority vote for unification, but violent reprisals from a sizeable minority would also be expected. A political solution is necessary, albeit difficult to envisage in the current circumstances.

The DUP’s position — that the Protocol is fundamentally incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement — is non-negotiable, which rules out the prospect of a unity government. Former first minister Paul Givan has said it will take a “miracle” for a new executive to come to fruition before tomorrow’s deadline. Even with hopes resting on a December election, the current stalemate seems indefinite.

Yet the history of Northern Irish politics is a series of broken deadlocks. In the Sixties, few could imagine a life beyond the inherent inequalities of a state founded on sectarian principles. In the Nineties, the tortuous negotiations from the Downing Street Declaration to the Good Friday Agreement made it seem as though the peace process was forever on the verge of collapse. It may take a miracle to restore Stormont in its current form, but that doesn’t mean that we should assume the worst for an uncertain future.


Andrew Doyle is a comedian and creator of the Twitter persona Titania McGrath

andrewdoyle_com

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Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

it’s very unlikely that the catholic majority will vote for unifying with Eire since, like Scotland, their economy is totally dependent on massive subsidies from the U.K.
In addition, the only circumstances in which significant civil (armed) unrest will arise in Northern Ireland is if it does unify with Eire, and it’ll be a small number of extreme Unionists who’ll provide the spark which could then turn into a larger scale conflagration that the Eire government won’t be able to handle. The Irish and the Northern Irish catholics know this would be a likely outcome.
Connected as I am to both sides, and understanding their lifelong visceral bigotry against each other, in my view the best option to avoid armed conflict is to maintain the current situation, even if it does cost the U.K. a lot of money and result in no final resolution to the conflict.

If they do vote to unify though, I’d expect the U.K. government to leave it to Eire and the EU to sort it out – we’re well out of it.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I believe the Republics tax take would have to increase by around a quarter in order to cover the deficit Northern Ireland currently runs (perhaps others with the exact figures could provide a link) in the event of unification. I can’t see it happening in the near future

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You forget: the UK made the problem so post Reunification it can bloody well pay for the mess it has made! There will of course be EU and US support as well so the extra cost to ROI will be minor. In time of course NI will become as prosperous as the Republic because NI folk are smart and hardworking: and so the extra expenses will erode over time.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Fair comment, though I don’t know why you are using the term ‘Eire’ as you are writing in English. Why not ‘Ireland’ or the ‘Republic of Ireland,’ both of which are officially accepted and much more widely used?

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Kevin Dee
Kevin Dee
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Find it hard to believe Irish Catholics would vote against a United Ireland for that reason. They may regret the decision 10 years later for that reason but I think they would vote with their hearts. While they need lots of subsidies now I’d expect Ireland’s corporate tax system would favor them quite well and their economy would do a lot better within a United Ireland.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin Dee

Correct on all counts!

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Dream on Ian

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

cost the UK a lot of money

This means the UK taxpayer. Who has been subsidising Northern Ireland for a century. Mostly to benefit the loyalist community (whom Harold Wilson called “parasites”), but, as Ian Stewart points out, the nationalist section too. The Irish government couldn’t handle violence in Ireland following unification? We don’t have to give in to people blackmailing us, let alone a foreign government.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Sounds like the “Afghanistan solution” all over again. Go into a country, divide and conquer and then abandon it to chaos.. So, so much better not to get involved at all! Too late for that alas.
A better solution might be the India-Pakistan solution, ie a Repartition (always planned for though never published) …though hopefully without bloodbath that accompanied it!
It could be arranged, in the purest sense to be a “Protestant state for a protest people” ie a 100% Unionist (Protestant / Catholic are no longer relevant terms) and would encompass all of Antrim, East Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh: and North Armagh and Down: probably 35% of NI’s current area but with most of the industry. Those unhappy with the result could sell up and move to the other part. Done over a period of years this might work?
A far better solution would be for NI to be a semi autonomous region within Ireland (to call Ireland Eire is equivalent to calling Germany Deutchland – it’s simply the Gaelic word for Ireland like Alba is the Gaelic for Scotland). Obviously, overall Irish authorities would have to ensure zero tolerance of the old sectarian gerrymanding and blatant discrimination in employment, housing and services but otherwise the region could get on with doing much of its own thing. With the prospect of major EU and US (+ UK!) support the improved living conditions will help with the long overdue burial of sectarian hatred.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Insightful piece by Andrew, whose work on many fronts is admirable, and a welcome change from the often inciteful nature of commentary on the subject. I’d no idea his personal connections were so close to the origins of the Troubles, which haunted my teenage years growing up among the Irish diaspora. My own grandfather was born in Ireland.

I can’t see anything except an ultimate re-unification of the island, but the points put forward already in Comments give pause for even more thought. What’s very clear though, is that violence can never be part of a solution; which isn’t to say that it won’t be, except as a hindrance and delay. The former Catholic minority might beg to differ, since their example from the 60s, with its very origin described by Andrew for what in my experience is the first time (the news media in my youth had a poor grasp of what was happening) did lead to change, albeit after three decades of murderous mayhem. I hope Andrew is right, and that the conditions which now prevail aren’t comparable. I’m not aware of any major lingering discrimination from either side, and perhaps the real majority consists only of those who wish to lead productive lives whilst their political lesders sort things out in a mature fashion. That’s not a hope peculiar to our cousins across the Irish Sea.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

What you say is true.. the DUP is more noise than substance: a throwback: supported only through bigotry and (increasingly) unnecessay fear of living and working in Ireland.
NI business is booming thanks to NI having a foot in both camps (UK + EU).. Progressives are now the vast majority in NI and sectarianism is dying fast: despite the DUP!

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

I live in NI. Nobody gives a flying fig about the damned Protocol. We’ve more important things to worry about.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Now yer talkin’!

Paul S
Paul S
1 year ago

As an Irishman who is (for right or wrong) emotionally tied to the notion of reunification, I can’t see it actually happening. Not unless the Republic creates a universal free health care system. Also, selling the Euro to citizens of the north could be difficult.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul S

Two minor points, easily overcome. The NHS is at breaking point anyway and the ÂŁstg is in decline..

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Ahh… Ulster… the place where the RUC and the UDR didn’t trust Catholic Officers in The Scots Guards… who thought that Catholics were not allowed to join the British Army, let alone become Officers…. a place where a certain Old Amplefordian, Officer sporting ‘ straight’ wings, was spotted as he was involved in keeping the Orange marchers from the Catholic protesters, and the Orangemen cheered at the Catholics… ” Don’t mess with the SAS”….Yet recruit Guardsmen at Pirbright in the 1970’s from either side of the divide, whether Scotland or the island of Ireland, some who had never even met anyone from over ” the divide” became mates together…..

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Robert Nairac, (MRF), late Irish Guards?
Do you also recall the ridiculous Miguel Portillo, as Minister of Defence at a Tory Party Conference trumpeting “We have the S.A.S.!” Embarrassing when one thinks about it!

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Robert, Grenadier and Old Amplefordian

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago

The reunification of Ireland will depend on many things. BTW it will not just be The Republic’s budget that will be in play: I expect the UK and the EU to contribute. It is a very delicate matter obviously and the rights and allegiances of all communities will need to be respected – and I think they will be. The Times They Are A Changing.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Very true.. the diehards are dying out and being squeezed out by the ever growingnumber of progressives. There will also be US support! Sure we’ll be awash with all kinds of dividends!

Peter Dunn
Peter Dunn
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Republic of Ireland is already awash with all kinds of cultures&not many of them ‘progressive’…eventually even the native nationalists can be out-bred.
Mmm now THERE’S a thing…there seems to be a plan.. and NOT a British one this time.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
1 year ago

Thank you. Eamonn McCann’s War and an Irish Town is a good introduction to the origins of “the Troubles”. Like the author of this piece, he’s from what used to be called “the nationalist community”, but like Doyle, he’s not a ranting republican. “Bloody Sunday upset us considerably”. The English have no monopoly on understatement.
But the undercurrent is: Irish unity is coming; get used to it.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

Here’s a post I did on this issue in May of this year:
The only people agitating about the Protocol are the DUP top brass.  
Isn’t it a rum state of affairs when a minority party in a devolved region can shape UK foreign policy …
Here are some quick points on this fake Protocol “crisis”:

1. The DUP and the Tories are no fans of the Good Friday Agreement. Their “concerns” about it are insincere, even cynical.
2. Despite the usual sock-puppet witterings of Braverman [in her previous failed role as AG], there is no legal linkage between the Brexit Protocol and the Good Friday Agreement. The Brexit Protocol is not a power-sharing matter. NI parties should not even be consulted about it. Just as they weren’t consulted on the main part of Brexit.  
3. The Brexit Protocol, despite being not given even half a chance,
already is working economically. Recent figures show that, relative
to their respective starting points, NI’s economy is now outperforming
GB’s economy. Cross border trade is booming.

4. There is no unrest – at all. Shops are stuffed to the rafters with
the usual crap. The vast, vast majority of people in NI, on either
side, couldn’t care less about the Brexit Protocol. Even those who
are supposedly fervently against the Brexit Protocol rank it very far
down their list of priorities. A poll of DUP voters, taken just prior
to the recent local elections, revealed that DUP voters ranked the
Protocol a lowly TENTH in their list of priorities – see:
https://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2022/02/14/news/protocol-matters-most-to-little-more-than-one-in-10-unionists—poll-2588056/
Tenth! And that’s about as important as it gets for the voters of the
party who are most “opposed” to it.

5. The recent elections here were not a poll on the Protocol. Elections
here are always a poll on what your nationality is – a chance to
declare your Britishness, or your Irishness, or, as with the
soft-Unionist Alliance party, a chance to declare that you couldn’t
care less about which flag waves over you. That is what EVERY
election in NI is always about; to assert that it was about the
Protocol or any other issue is outsider piffle. The DUP top brass
hate the EU and they want to build a big Trump-style wall between NI
and ROI, but their voters have more sense – they are not supporters of
the Protocol, far from it. But, equally, they’re not that bothered
about it either. The Tories’ wild talk of societal breakdown and dire
economic hardships, all supposedly stemming from the Protocol, is
astonishing balderdash; mendacious self-serving, distorted propaganda
more akin to something you’d see on Russian state TV. It’s an easy
narrative to sell to a lightly-informed GB electorate, and it of
course allows them to use NI as a stick to beat the EU with in their
efforts to outflank the ERG et al, but, please good folks of Blighty,
please recognise that, on this issue, the Tories are feeding you kool
aid hogwash by the gallon.

6. Recently, leading Belfast DUP Brexiter agitator, Jamie Bryson, brought a bus-load of Brexiter bandsmen and assorted yahoos to Enniskillen (a
rural town near the EU border) for a “massive show of strength against
the Protocol“. Fermanagh is a county with lots of Unionist people, so
Jamie thought he was on to a winner. However, hardly anybody showed
up, and egg-on-face Bryson was left sermonising to his bussed-in
rent-a-mob while sensible local Unionists ignored them in their
thousands. So much for Johnson’s alarmist nonsense. In that
context, it is instructive to read an editorial in Co. Fermanagh’s
main pro-Union (with GB) newspaper, The Impartial Reporter. It’s much
more reflective of a pragmatic border Unionist view of Brexit / the
Protocol – this is a quiet majority opinion within sensible Unionism
which is drowned out in all the cynical DUP tub-thumping:
=======================
https://www.impartialreporter.com/news/19550692.denzil-mcdaniel-madness-area-return-impact-border-past/
“Everything changed with the peace process and the Good Friday
Agreement and movement back and forth became easier; indeed better
than ever and people returned to a more normal life. People just want
to get on with their lives and we’ve become used to it.
The impact that the previous Border had for decades was enormous. It
would be madness to go back to the Border of the past with all its
difficulties.
Yet, one gets the impression that Jamie Bryson and Jim Allister would
quite welcome such a scenario here, whatever the inconvenience for
people in this area. Bryson, according to Twitter found the journey to
Enniskillen “quite the trek” and was thankful for a SatNav. He’s
distant from the problems here.
This smacks of a sense of entitlement from a certain constituency of
loyalism, which hasn’t quite grasped the changes which have taken
place in Northern Ireland, both in terms of the demographic and the
attitudes, particularly among younger people that the old symbols of
past division aren’t as relevant to modern life for them as they
were.”
========================
The above is a take on Brexit and the EU from a Northern Irish British
Unionist. It’s a million miles away from the hysterical anti-Protocol
narrative being fomented by the Tories.

7. Due to the outdated rules governing Stormont (the rules, drafted
in the last century, only recognise unionists and nationalists – the
constitutionally agnostic of the soft-Unionist Alliance party are
deemed not to exist), the DUP’s absence from Stormont paralyses
Stormont and disenfranchises the voters of every other Stormont party.
After the Alliance party’s recent thumping success (doubling their
representation), this veto right is obsolete, and should be scrapped.

8. If we’re stuck with this outdated veto right rule, then perhaps
its use at least could be *confined to matters that properly are
within Stormont’s remit*. As the recent Court of Appeal case
confirmed, Brexit (including the Brexit Protocol) is not a devolved
matter. While the DUP tail-chasers are entitled to oppose the logical
ramifications of the hard Brexit they lobbied for, the DUP should not
be entitled to collapse local democracy to do so. Where a party
purports to walk off with the ball in relation to a reserved matter,
that purported boycott automatically should be a nullity, and the
remaining non-freeloading parties (despite giving 2 fingers to local
democracy, the DUP still showed up for 5 minutes to sign on and to
claim their publicly-funded salaries) should be permitted to continue
running the local administration. 

9. Most people in NI, of whatever persuasion, are sick to the back
teeth of Tory Brexiter alarmism. I’m from a nationalist (pro Irish
unity) background, but I find myself in 100% agreement with this
letter written recently by a Unionist bloke in Belfast, when he notes,
inter alia: “ Let’s be blunt, when an English MP talks about getting
rid of the protocol, their focus is on getting Boris re-elected, not
the interests of Northern Ireland.” See:
https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/opinion/letters/we-unionists-who-foresaw-that-brexit-would-cause-problems-at-the-northern-ireland-border-were-ignored-3694129

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

I couldn’t agree more with your brilliant excoriation of the completely bogus Protocol charade, which so bedevils the current Tory Party.
As an Englishman I am sure you can understand my position that we must now leave Ireland as soon as is humanly possible, for all our sakes.
A century ago we let go much of the place and hence gave birth to the ‘Kerrygold Republic’, with which we have had fairly amicable relations ever since. Now is the time to complete that process, and lance the Brexit boil while we still have a chance

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago

Finally we agree on something! Phew..

0 0
0 0
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Why is Ireland not paying to protect the Single Market and is instead dumping its responsibilities and cost on Northern Ireland?

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
1 year ago

I didn’t know Andrew knew so much about Northern Ireland.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

Here’s a post I did on this issue in May of this year:

The only people agitating about the Protocol are the DUP top brass.  

Isn’t it a rum state of affairs when a minority party in a devolved region can shape UK foreign policy …

Here are some quick points on this fake Protocol “crisis”:

1. The DUP and the Tories are no fans of the Good Friday Agreement.

Their “concerns” about it are insincere, even cynical.

2. Despite the usual sock-puppet witterings of Braverman [in her previous failed role as AG], there is no

legal linkage between the Brexit Protocol and the Good Friday

Agreement. The Brexit Protocol is not a power-sharing matter. NI parties should. Nt even be consulted about it. Just as they weren’t consulted on the main part of Brexit.  

3. The Brexit Protocol, despite being not given even half a chance,

already is working economically. Recent figures show that, relative

to their respective starting points, NI’s economy is now outperforming

GB’s economy. Cross border trade is booming.

4. There is no unrest – at all. Shops are stuffed to the rafters with

the usual crap. The vast, vast majority of people in NI, on either

side, couldn’t care less about the Brexit Protocol. Even those who

are supposedly fervently against the Brexit Protocol rank it very far

down their list of priorities. A poll of DUP voters, taken just prior

to the recent local elections, revealed that DUP voters ranked the

Protocol a lowly TENTH in their list of priorities – see:

https://www.irishnews.com/news/northernirelandnews/2022/02/14/news/protocol-matters-most-to-little-more-than-one-in-10-unionists—poll-2588056/

Tenth! And that’s about as important as it gets for the voters of the

party who are most “opposed” to it.

5. The recent elections were not a poll on the Protocol. Elections

here are always a poll on what your nationality is – a chance to

declare your Britishness, or your Irishness, or, as with the

soft-Unionist Alliance party, a chance to declare that you couldn’t

care less about which flag waves over you. That is what EVERY

election in NI is always about; to assert that it was about the

Protocol or any other issue is outsider piffle. The DUP top brass

hate the EU and they want to build a big Trump-style wall between NI

and ROI, but their voters have more sense – they are not supporters of

the Protocol, far from it. But, equally, they’re not that bothered

about it either. The Tories’ wild talk of societal breakdown and dire

economic hardships, all supposedly stemming from the Protocol, is

astonishing balderdash; mendacious self-serving, distorted propaganda

more akin to something you’d see on Russian state TV. It’s an easy

narrative to sell to a lightly-informed GB electorate, and it of

course allows them to use NI as a stick to beat the EU with in their

efforts to outflank the ERG et al, but, please good folks of Blighty,

please recognise that, on this issue, the Tories are feeding you kool

aid hogwash by the gallon.

6. Recently, leading DUP Brexiter agitator, Jamie Bryson, brought a

bus-load of Brexiter bandsmen and assorted yahoos to Enniskillen (a

rural town near the EU border) for a “massive show of strength against

the Protocol“. Fermanagh is a county with lots of Unionist people, so

Jamie thought he was on to a winner. However, hardly anybody showed

up, and egg-on-face Bryson was left sermonising to his bussed-in

rent-a-mob while sensible local Unionists ignored them in their

thousands. So much for Johnson’s alarmist nonsense. In that

context, it is instructive to read an editorial in Co. Fermanagh’s

main pro-Union (with GB) newspaper, The Impartial Reporter. It’s much

more reflective of a pragmatic border Unionist view of Brexit / the

Protocol – this is a quiet majority opinion within sensible Unionism

which is drowned out in all the cynical DUP-BoJo tub-thumping:

=======================

https://www.impartialreporter.com/news/19550692.denzil-mcdaniel-madness-area-return-impact-border-past/

“Everything changed with the peace process and the Good Friday

Agreement and movement back and forth became easier; indeed better

than ever and people returned to a more normal life. People just want

to get on with their lives and we’ve become used to it.

The impact that the previous Border had for decades was enormous. It

would be madness to go back to the Border of the past with all its

difficulties.

Yet, one gets the impression that Jamie Bryson and Jim Allister would

quite welcome such a scenario here, whatever the inconvenience for

people in this area. Bryson, according to Twitter found the journey to

Enniskillen “quite the trek” and was thankful for a SatNav. He’s

distant from the problems here.

This smacks of a sense of entitlement from a certain constituency of

loyalism, which hasn’t quite grasped the changes which have taken

place in Northern Ireland, both in terms of the demographic and the

attitudes, particularly among younger people that the old symbols of

past division aren’t as relevant to modern life for them as they

were.”

========================

The above is a take on Brexit and the EU from a Northern Irish British

Unionist. It’s a million miles away from the hysterical anti-Protocol

narrative being fomented by the Tories.

7. Due to the outdated rules governing Stormont (the rules, drafted

in the last century, only recognise unionists and nationalists – the

constitutionally agnostic of the soft-Unionist Alliance party are

deemed not to exist), the DUP’s absence from Stormont paralyses

Stormont and disenfranchises the voters of every other Stormont party.

After the Alliance party’s recent thumping success (doubling their

representation), this veto right is obsolete, and should be scrapped.

8. If we’re stuck with this outdated veto right rule, then perhaps

its use at least could be *confined to matters that properly are

within Stormont’s remit*. As the recent Court of Appeal case

confirmed, Brexit (including the Brexit Protocol) is not a devolved

matter. While the DUP tail-chasers are entitled to oppose the logical

ramifications of the hard Brexit they lobbied for, the DUP should not

be entitled to collapse local democracy to do so. Where a party

purports to walk off with the ball in relation to a reserved matter,

that purported boycott automatically should be a nullity, and the

remaining non-freeloading parties (despite giving 2 fingers to local

democracy, the DUP still showed up for 5 minutes to sign on and to

claim their publicly-funded salaries) should be permitted to continue

running the local administration. 

9. Most people in NI, of whatever persuasion, are sick to the back

teeth of Tory Brexiter alarmism. I’m from a nationalist (pro Irish

unity) background, but I find myself in 100% agreement with this

letter written recently by a Unionist bloke in Belfast, when he notes,

inter alia: “ Let’s be blunt, when an English MP talks about getting

rid of the protocol, their focus is on getting Boris re-elected, not

the interests of Northern Ireland.” See:

https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/opinion/letters/we-unionists-who-foresaw-that-brexit-would-cause-problems-at-the-northern-ireland-border-were-ignored-3694129

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1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

You really don’t understand what is going on, do you?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

The UK should rid itself of Northern Ireland (NI) as soon as possible. It is even more expensive to subsidise than Scotland.
We owe NI nothing and it cannot be in our interest to hang on to this anachronism of Empire.

Whist it provided nearly thirty years of splendid ‘sport’ for the British Army (1969-97) we can no longer afford such extravagance. Perhaps as an interim measure, we could ship those 38K illegal immigrants who recently arrived on our shores to detention camps in NI. No doubt our ‘old’ ones still exist.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

Your suggestion of sending our illegal immigrants to Northern Ireland has the particular attraction that in the event of a United Ireland they would be returned to the country of their immediate origin ie the EU where they should have settled in the first place.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Thank you.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

Charles, I’ve no doubt I’d disagree with you on various topics, but I admire your candour : )

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Thank you, and I agree we may have a slightly different ‘take’ on various topics, but thanks to the tolerance of UnHerd we enjoyed some fairly convivial banter.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

noooo! Sell it to Canada and the presbyterians can at least all underperform together in every sphere in a beautiful country with some of the most attractive women on the planet…

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Too cruel Sir!

For all the mischief the Irish may have caused us they are nothing like as ungrateful and petulant as the wretched Scotch, or to be more precise the SNP (Small Nation Paranoiacs).

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

amen to that! yes!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

ps Hunting and racing in Ireland is heavenly, and there is something so rarely, refreshingly classless about The Republic where all will drink and have a good craic, no matter who or where from.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago

An English woman living in Ireland told me she was once in the same hospital waiting room as an ex-Taoiseach(Prime Minister). ‘So that’s what being a Republic means,’ she said in admiration.

Ana Cronin
Ana Cronin
1 year ago

If your friend was in a hospital waiting room with an ex Taoiseach I guarantee you it was one of our private hospitals. If by some unlikely event it was a public hospital he was a there to be seen. Perhaps around election time and a relative running to be a TD(mp) perhaps! Politics in Ireland is often a family business. Ireland is not classless believe me (I’m Irish) there are sections of society here whose paths never cross.

Ana Cronin
Ana Cronin
1 year ago
Reply to  Ana Cronin

Further context Ireland’s Private Health Services are community rated not risk rated like the UK’s. So TD’s on 90k+ pa Taoiseach on 200k+pa (and when career over an enchanted final salary pension) is not going to be accessing the state health service which is dire and wait for it you still have to pay for unless you have a full medical card. €60 per GP visit and €100 for A&E

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Ana Cronin

Incorrect: I do not have a ‘full’ Medical Card and my GP visits cost me nothing. The A&E charge is €10 not €100! You’re way off beam there.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Ana Cronin

THis was a while back. Jack Lynch was the man in question.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 year ago
Reply to  Ana Cronin

That is true except that it’s not about “Class” in the true sense. It’s more tribalism than class.. the equivalent of following a football club in GB..