The main unionist parties seem unwilling to rock the boat at Stormont, even if that means weakening the Union

A letter from Tom Ferguson:

Tuesday, 16th February 2021, 6:00 am
Letter to the editor

I have watched the views of the various unionist politicians on the topic of the Irish Sea Border with interest.

While all profess to be opposed to it, yet none of the parties in the Stormont executive are willing to do away with the regional government, even if that regional government is operating and enforcing the very border they profess to oppose and thereby destroying the Union they profess to uphold.

The petition for a debate in Westminster, while laudable in itself, will achieve nothing to make the Johnston government change course.

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Indeed a former leader of the DUP pointed this out in his article in your paper last Friday (see link below).

In fact, all it is likely to do, and a cynic would say that this is all it is intended to do, is to cover the blushes of the DUP and UUP who, as integral parts of the regional government are enforcing the protocol.

The overall impression an outsider gains is that the main unionist parties are unwilling to do anything to rock the boat as far as the assembly is concerned, and if that means weakening the Union, so be it.

So what can the unionist people do? Well, as the people of Northern Ireland were not consulted on the Irish Sea border and it only applies to Northern Ireland, so we should have the right to say whether it has our approval or not in a referendum.

Again, in the 2016 referendum, significant swathes of the Province voted leave, and if this occurs again, those areas that reject the Irish Sea border should be fully part of the UK, while those areas that want to be in the EU customs area can remain under the present convoluted arrangements.

What about the checks at our harbours? Unless the area round the harbour is in the EU customs area, there won’t be any. If someone wishes to travel on to an EU customs zone they could make a suitable declaration for onward travel.

If the Irish Republic wish to make further checks at their border, that is for them and their masters in the EU to decide.

Realistically there is little chance that the British government would grant us this referendum unless they are put under significant pressure.

At the moment options like street protests and rallies etc are curtailed due to the Covid situation. However, the unionist politicians could exert significant pressure by stopping or severely curtailing the functioning of the assembly and where feasible, the departments they control, by procedural and other tactics until such time as a referendum on the Irish Sea border is called.

However, do the main unionist parties, and in particular the DUP as the dominant party, have any ‘stomach for defiance’ as Peter Robinson put it, or will they attempt to hide behind the fig leaf of a petition to parliament which has no power to change government policy?

Tom Ferguson, Ballymoney

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