Lord Morrow: The Irish government and EU need to take a more conciliatory approach to help end tensions

A letter from the chairman of the DUP, Lord Morrow:

Saturday, 17th April 2021, 8:23 am
Updated Saturday, 17th April 2021, 8:45 am
The deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill, right, with Mary Lou McDonald at the Bobby Storey funeral, has contributed to the crisis, says Lord Morrow, "whether in relation to flouting Covid rules or by calling for the rigorous implementation of the protocol"

My warning that the current crisis is on a par with the Ulster Workers’ Council strike was intended as a wake-up call to those who can change the course we are presently on before it is too late.

These exhortations have fallen on deaf ears and unionist concerns have been denied, diminished or denigrated.

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Given the role the deputy first ministerhas played in contributing to the crisis in Northern Ireland it is hardly surprising that she denies its existence.

Whether in relation to the flouting of the Covid rules or by calling for the “rigorous implementation” of the protocol, Michelle O’Neill has added significantly to the tensions which presently exist.

I do not excuse the UK government for its role in the present difficulties, but there has been too little attention on the divisive and disingenuous role of the Irish government and the European Commission.

It should not have taken a riot for people to wake up to the fact that the Northern Ireland protocol is completely unacceptable to all unionist parties.

It should have been obvious that almost no unionists could support a border in the Irish Sea which separates us from the rest of the UK, our most important market. Every right-thinking person will condemn the violence we have seen in recent days.

It is both wrong and counterproductive.

The threat or spectre of violence cynically used in the Brexit negotiations, to prevent so much as a camera on the border with the Republic of Ireland, must also be condemned.

Unionists remember the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presenting EU leaders with a copy of an Irish newspaper featuring the story of an IRA bombing of a border customs post in 1972. The none too subtle message he was seeking to convey was clear.

Many of the problems that exist today are a direct result of the aggressive approach towards unionism and Northern Ireland by the Irish government and the European Commission.

Without a shred of objective justification, the Belfast Agreement was weaponised by the Irish government against the interests of unionists yet there is not a single word in the Belfast Agreement to justify the notion that a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is a breach of that agreement.

Those politicians in the Republic who have engaged in these tactics care not a jot about the incalculable long-term damage across the island that this approach has caused but prefer to blame unionists for the present situation.

They castigate those of us in Northern Ireland who legitimately voted to leave the European Union though ignore the fact that the ‘leave’ majority across the UK far outweighed the leave vote in Northern Ireland.

They also attack the DUP for rejecting earlier Brexit deals but fail to mention that all the options put forward by the government also created a regulatory border in the Irish Sea.

For a while some could have been fooled into thinking that the key motivation of the European Commission was to ‘defend the peace process’ and prevent a ‘hard border on the island of Ireland’.

However, what is now abundantly clear is for the EC the integrity of the single market ranks high above peace in Northern Ireland and any claim that the EU may have had to being an honest broker in the politics of Northern Ireland is long gone.

When the UK government took the most modest action imaginable to protect the local economy by extending grace periods, they were subject to abuse from the Irish foreign minister and the threat of legal action from the European Commission.

If we are to find a way out of the present difficulties a more conciliatory approach will be needed from the Irish government and the European Commission.

More importantly the UK government will need to make good on the prime minister’s commitment to Northern Ireland that there will be no checks on goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Ultimately that is what will help calm the situation in Northern Ireland.

Lord Morrow of Clogher Valley, DUP chairman

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