Jim Nicholson: The peace deal in Northern Ireland is not at risk from unionists propping up a government

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I have read with interest recent comments from the likes of John Major, Jonathan Powell, Peter Hain and others regarding the Northern Ireland peace process.

I can only come to the conclusion that these individuals have an extremely poor view of unionism and a skewed attitude towards Northern Ireland.

Essentially all share the erroneous Sinn Fein view that having a Northern Ireland unionist in or propping up a government would breach the Belfast Agreement, and that peace is now at risk.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Belfast Agreement affirms the fact that Northern Ireland is a full, integral part of the United Kingdom for as long as our people wish to remain so. Our 18 MPs (or at least, those bothered to turn up!) have as much right to help form or support a government as any other member.

There is something quite dark about this argument. Firstly, it shows an ignorant and patronising attitude about life in modern Northern Ireland.

We all have our own memories, but for the sake of our children and grandchildren we have moved forward and made tremendous progress over the past 20 years.

But the comments made by these individuals also seem to suggest that we should give in to implicit threats of violence – even though we have been told that the IRA has “gone away”.

If Mr Powell and Lord Hain want to talk about destabilising side-deals, they need look no further than back door deals with Sinn Fein, awarding IRA terrorists with “letters of comfort”.

In any case, I highly doubt we would be witnessing the same hysteria from these figures if hypothetically Irish nationalist MPs helped prop up a “progressive alliance”. Is it only a problem when unionists do it?

Jim Nicholson, Ulster Unionist MEP, Co Armagh