A good speech by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson on the Northern Ireland Protocol, now is time for London to stand firm

News Letter editorial of Friday September 10 2021:

Friday, 10th September 2021, 9:19 am
Updated Saturday, 11th September 2021, 8:47 am
News Letter editorial

The DUP yesterday moved to greatly toughen its stance on the Irish Sea border disaster.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s speech delivered at the La Mon hotel was hugely welcome.

For example, the withdrawal from cross-border political institutions was logical. It was untenable for north-south to stay as normal after east-west was trashed.

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The Northern Ireland Protocol is a profound betrayal by the prime minister of unionists in general (of whom he claims to be one) and of the people he promised that day to help in particular — the people of this Province who want to remain in the UK under the consent principle.

Boris Johnson told the DUP in late 2018 that no PM would accept customs or regulatory checks between NI and Great Britain to undermine his then leader Theresa May, and then agreed to both weeks after ousting her. Then he pretended none of this had happened, and he got away with it because it is all so complex that few people realised its significance.

Jim Allister QC, however, did and within hours of the Johnson-Varadkar deal described it as a betrayal of the highest order. But the DUP, while it opposed the protocol, seemed too ready to accept the reality of it and spoke of opportunity.

Sir Jeffrey was right also to say yesterday that if the option is either staying in office or implementing the protocol as is, “the only option for any unionist minister” would be to quit.

The Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald played the stateswoman yesterday in response to the DUP leader’s speech, but her hypocrisy was risible, presiding over a party that wants Northern Ireland to fail and which was allowed to collapse Stormont then keep it down for three years until its Irish language act demand was met. Then again demanded (and was granted) for such an act to take priority over all else.

The onus is now on London to live up to its command paper, for once to stand up to nationalist Ireland and to banish the sense that if Sinn Fein throws enough of a tantrum about something, supported by Irish officials, it will get its way.

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