John Cushnahan: The DUP and Sinn Fein share blame for the political crisis over the Irish Sea border

A letter from John Cushnahan:

By John Cushnahan
Friday, 26th February 2021, 12:56 pm
Updated Friday, 26th February 2021, 1:04 pm
An amended version of Theresa May’s Withdrawl Deal almost passed in the House of Commons in early 2019, above, and would have done with DUP or Sinn Fein backing
An amended version of Theresa May’s Withdrawl Deal almost passed in the House of Commons in early 2019, above, and would have done with DUP or Sinn Fein backing

It is thoroughly depressing to watch Northern Ireland once again descend into another political crisis.

On this occasion, the ‘Northern Ireland Protocol’ is alleged to be the reason for it.

Tragically the controversy that has arisen seriously undermines the Good Friday Agreement and the institutions created by it.

Letter to the editor

The ‘blame game’ has already started as to who was responsible.

Certain Northern Ireland political parties are cynically exploiting the situation so that they may deflect blame from themselves as they jockey for position in advance of next year’s assembly elections.

It is therefore important to reflect and clarify exactly where culpability actually does rest.

While it is true that the EU Commission President, Ursula von Der Leyen precipitated the current crisis, she is not responsible for the problems that are now being experienced by Northern Ireland business and consumers arising from the bureaucracy and paperwork that has arisen since the 1st January this year.

It was Brexit and those who created it or failed to ameliorate its consequences who are responsible.

Therefore, the primary culprits are the DUP and Sinn Fein.

The DUP aligned with hard-line Conservative Brexiteers and others to vote down Theresa May’s withdrawal deal which would actually have prevented a hard border.

There were also a number of key votes in March and April 2019 in the Westminster Parliament that would have kept not only Northern Ireland, but the UK as whole, in the EU Customs Union.

In particular there were two amendments from former British Chancellor, Ken Clarke which were defeated on 28th March 2019 by six votes and on the 1st April by three votes.

On both occasions, if the DUP had voted in favour of these amendments, although Brexit would still have gone ahead, it would nonetheless have resulted in a situation where the entire UK would have remained in the EU-UK Customs Union and this would have prevented the current Great Britain-Northern Ireland trading problems from ever arising.

Alternatively, even without the DUP changing its voting position had Sinn Fein, as well as taking their expenses, ended their futile policy of abstentionism and supported the Clarke amendments the exact same positive outcome would also have occurred.

Instead, these two parties betrayed the real interests of the people of Northern Ireland for narrow selfish party-political interests.

If either had have acted differently, there would never have been a need for a ‘Northern Ireland Protocol’ in the first place.

John Cushnahan, Former Leader of Alliance Party and former Fine Gael MEP

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