Ireland wasted opportunity to unburden itself of Northern Ireland’s eternal constitutional squabble

A letter from Micheal O’Cathail:

Monday, 15th March 2021, 7:20 am
Letter to the editor

Arising from the controversy involving the N. Ireland Protocol, Alex Kane is pessimistic (March 8, see below) about the future for Northern Ireland.

He writes, “My fears (as a unionist) probably mirror the fears of nationalists who believed a hard land border would damage their sense of identity and broader citizenship.”

In other words, there will only be one winner in this continuous constitutional battle between unionists and nationalists: the classic zero-sum scenario.

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I am agnostic about the protocol. I don’t think having an economic border in the Irish sea between N. Ireland and the rest of the UK confers advantages on Ireland — economic, cultural or political: certainly, not while the EU and UK are slugging it out.

Ireland will have to learn to trade directly with the EU, for the most part bypassing the UK, regardless of an Irish sea border.

As I write, even the continuation of the Euro tunnel rail connection between the UK and France is problematic, also, there are looming difficulties about air travel connections between the UK and EU.

The UK’s lucrative financial institutions, which generate much of the UK’s wealth, have lost ground in the EU.

In fact, there is an unseemly competition, and rush, by some of the EU’s financial centres to replace London, now that the latter has moved, (or has been moved out as London voted to remain), outside the EU. I won’t delve into the UK/EU fish fight.

Non of this forebodes well for future relations, certainly in the short term, between the two blocs.

If there wasn’t a N. Ireland Protocol, Ireland needn’t get involved in the rows between the two.

Ireland, without the albatross of the N. Ireland Protocol around its neck, could maintain a neutral stance, be friends with all and simply get on with the business of trading with the UK and EU and the rest of the world.

I can’t understand why Ireland wasted the opportunity to unburden itself of N. Ireland’s eternal constitutional squabble (as outlined in Alex Kane’s article) until such time as N. Ireland made peace with itself and voted, under the terms of GFA, to stay or leave the UK, and, if the latter, to request unification with Ireland.

At that stage it would seem to have been more opportune, and appropriate, to have given consideration to a N. Ireland protocol.

Micheal O’Cathail, Fermanagh

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