Lord Dodds: It’s bizarre for anyone to depict DUP as endorsing in 2019 the undemocratic Northern Ireland Protocol that was eventually foisted upon business
Last September the leaders of the four main unionist political parties in our Province joined forces to sign a declaration rejecting the Northern Ireland Protocol.
In doing so, they pledged to stand together to seek the full restoration of Northern Ireland’s place as an integral part of the United Kingdom.
Sadly, this shared objective has been undermined by a small number of voices who are more interested in scoring petty political points within the unionist family (Lord Empey: ‘The DUP has not faced up to its central role in creating the Northern Ireland Protocol,’ January 5, see link below).
Rather than taking the fight to those responsible for these perverse arrangements in Brussels, Dublin and London, they would rather peddle mistruths and apportion blame within unionism for an outcome that no unionist elected representative has ever voted for.
Support for Jamie Bryson after young son threatened in vile phone call
Feile an Phobail fallout continues: Major motor dealer Agnew Group suspends worker over West Belfast Festival posting
Disgusting mural glorifies violence and is not acceptable
NI Protocol: Jim Allister warns against buying into promises by Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak
Belfast city centre death now being treated as murder
This is an act of self-harm. It does nothing to further the economic interests of Northern Ireland or the cause of our Union.
It is a matter of public record that the votes of DUP MPs were decisive in stopping Theresa May’s backstop on three different occasions.
That deal would most certainly have created a regulatory border in the Irish Sea.
Fast forward a few months and Boris Johnson’s October 2019 proposals actually included a veto for the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Any divergence between Great Britain and Northern Ireland would have required the prior consent of Stormont on a cross-community basis before coming into force.
This was consistent with our red line that any outcome must respect the role of the devolved institutions and Northern Ireland would have stayed under UK customs laws.
It is bizarre that anyone should depict the DUP’s position during this period as an endorsement of the undemocratic protocol eventually foisted upon businesses and communities in Northern Ireland.
A veto would have put the matter in our own hands, not the hands of London, Dublin or Brussels.
The reality is that the prime minister failed utterly to deliver on these sensible commitments to unionism and to democracy in Northern Ireland.
What was proposed and what he negotiated were miles apart.
Accordingly, DUP MPs voted to reject the government’s final deal. This course of action was never in doubt. We will not allow it to become prey to revisionism.
Unionism deserves better than saboteurs within its own ranks — those concerned only with electioneering and one-upmanship.
It also deserves political leaders who are committed to decisively dealing with the oppressive and damaging protocol.
Does Lord Empey agree with his party colleague Ian Marshall who said the protocol is here to stay?
Does he endorse the view of his party leader Doug Beattie that these issues can be ironed out by repeated negotiations without any implications for the future of devolution?
Ultimately, this is not the time for half-measures. There can be no holds barred.
Every available option should be on the table. Above all, unionists of all shades must stand together, set narrow differences aside and resist a blame culture, as we pursue a permanent and acceptable solution in the interests of our people, Province and nation.
• Lord Dodds is a former deputy leader of the DUP and North Belfast MP
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
With the coronavirus lockdowns having had a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.
Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.
now to sign up.
Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.
Ben Lowry, Editor