Consent principle seems to operate on nationalist terms

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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The Belfast Agreement of 1998 supposedly enshrined the consent principle, that Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK so long as the majority of the voting population so wanted.

The Republic dropped its aggressive territorial claim on the Province as part of that deal.

Yet it often seems that the only form of Britishness that is acceptable to nationalists is British cheques from the Treasury.

Indeed, this form of Britishness — huge and relentless funding from London — is not merely acceptable to nationalists, but is furiously demanded from them.

As the recent talks standstill showed, nationalists were able to bring Stormont to the point of collapse to ensure that unreformed welfare cash, funded by British taxpayers, continues to be pumped into areas including Sinn Fein strongholds.

It is worth again repeating in full (as the DUP MP Jim Shannon did on our letters pages yesterday) what the Transport Minister Claire Perry said when she explained why the Union Flag will be put on driving licences in Great Britain: “People in this country rightly take pride in our national flag which is why I am delighted it will now be displayed on British driving licences. Celebrating Britain strengthens our sense of national identity and our unity. I will feel proud to carry my new licence and I hope others will too.”

Does she feel embarrassment, or even shame, that this is not extended to Northern Ireland?

The reason that it is not so extended is that a majority of nationalist voters now back a party that was inextricably linked with an organisation that inflicted murder and mayhem.

They would not tolerate a Union Flag over the City Hall or the Union Flag in driving licences.

It looks as though nationalist support for the consent principle was granted on terms acceptable only to nationalists.

You can bet that if the flag was introduced on Northern Ireland licences, Dublin would complain to London. You can bet London would not have the courage to say: “Get lost.”