Letter: Stormont boycott was both effective and necessary in pushing for change

A letter from R G McDowell:
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It is clear that the deal to restore powersharing doesn’t remove the Irish Sea border nor does it fully restore Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom.

It might however be hoped that it does create enough mitigation of the sea border to perhaps constitute a stop the rot settlement whereby for the short term at least it stops further deterioration of Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom.

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What it certainly demonstrates is that the unionist boycott was both effective and necessary in pushing for change and that those who opposed it or are now suggesting that the same position could have been achieved without preventing the formation of an executive were completely wrong.

Unionists will continue to disagree over whether now was the correct point to end the protest.

In so far as that is the choice that has been made I feel the Ulster Unionist Party missed a great opportunity to position themselves as the only main segment of the unionist family that warned against unionists supporting Brexit but still throwing their lot in with the DUP/TUV in fighting the Irish Sea border.

The DUP didn’t need them to collapse the executive but as the main unionist signatory to the Good Friday Agreement I believe their support for the boycott would have carried great symbolic value and greatly strengthened the unionist position in arguing that the current arrangement was incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement conditions of powersharing.

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Instead, giving an impression to the government that they might be able to persuade enough unionists to accept an internal UK border for sake of making Northern Ireland work was always going to undermine the unionist position.

Who is to say how much stronger the DUP negotiating position might have been if the Ulster Unionist Party had added their weight to it in refusing to form an executive, and I think the ‘we warned you not to do Brexit but are going to fight the sea border’ combination would have been winning electoral ground for them.

R G McDowell, Belfast