The DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said an important thing yesterday about the bus attack in Newtownards.
Condemning the burning of the vehicle as something for which there were will never be justification, he said the recent concessions from the EU on the NI Protocol were secured by “political action, not violence”.
It is entirely understandable that there is deep anger in the loyalist communities at the way in which a border was established within the UK after years of warnings, and implied threats, about violence at the land border if Brexit led to any changes, infrastructure or checks between north and south.
The betrayal of unionists, in stark contradiction of the rhetoric of Boris Johnson to the DUP conference in 2018 about next accepting Irish Sea checks, came after almost five decades of a unionist perception that violence or the threat of violence brings political reward for republicans.
Even so, the attack on the vehicle in Netownards was outrageous. On the first level such wanton destruction is grossly wasteful. Gradually NI’s bus stock has got better and better, after decades in which the impact of IRA terrorism meant that there was often funds only for rudimentary vehicles.
Setting a bus on fire is also so dangerous to human life as to be wicked.
But even setting aside the obvious wrongness of it, such an incident will not influence the talks on the protocol.
The emphatic unionist rejection of the protocol and the powerful arguments that have been deployed against it have influenced thinking. The UK government latterly has seemed embarrassed by the illogicality of its political opposition to the protocol and its legal defence of it. This is a key moment in which London’s resolve against Brussels is being tested.
It must firmly, calmly and repeatedly be made clear to UK/EU that the protocol has been imposed on one section of the community without consent – a joint position that the DUP, UUP and TUV took at the Tory conference in Manchester.
Hijacking and burning of bus could be linked to ‘protest against the NI Protocol’
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