Letter: Unionists must not become latter-day Vichy collaborators over protocol

A letter from RG McDowell:

By RG McDowell
Friday, 5th November 2021, 4:30 am
Updated Friday, 5th November 2021, 11:20 am
Philippe Petain, head of Vichy France (the Nazi puppet state that kept order in southern France during much of WWII) pictured in 1945 on trial for treason. The letter-writer warns unionists against ‘Vichy-style collaboration’ (image marked as public domain)

It is clear that Unionism’s concerns over the Northern Ireland protocol have been taken much more seriously since the DUP threatened to withdraw from the power-sharing executive, for which they have been the point of much vilification and emotional blackmail.

Such vilification is unfounded, as both main Unionist parties have demonstrated they are committed devolutionists as evidenced by the fact they have stuck with it in spite of the protocol clearly breaching the Good Friday Agreement.

If the executive collapses it will not be because Unionists were playing political games but because the institutions have been made unworkable by the protocol.

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Letter to the editor

The fact that the EU are now making efforts to mitigate the protocol is evidence that such an approach was able to change minds.

But mitigation – however well intentioned – is not enough.

Dublin suggests that the protocol is a consequence of Brexit.

Where the protocol is implemented, however, is a choice not a consequence, and it is a choice that doesn’t honour Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.

The only solution is for the UK to leave or stay as a whole and for discussions to focus on how the EU / Dublin protects its own market at its own boundary.

I have no doubt the UK will be sufficiently flexible that a hard border will only exist in Ireland if the Irish government put it there.

There will never be a good time to leave the executive when it comes to matters such as health, but given the seriousness of the constitutional crisis, nothing less will force a rethink of the protocol.

The emotional blackmail that Unionist politicians are being bombarded with would be better applied to the two governments who have breached their role as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement by implementing a protocol that forces Unionist politicians who want to make devolution work into a position of being Vichy France by collaborating in implementing their own second class citizenship.

It is clear no Unionist minister wants to bring the executive down but the protocol creates a situation whereby no Unionist minister can credibly remain.

The two governments must shoulder the blame, not the Unionist ministers, who really have no choice but to resign if the protocol remains.

RG McDowell, Belfast BT5

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