John Campbell writing on the BBC NI News website reports that the UK government are appointing a group of ‘experts’ to provide advice on post-Brexit arrangements.
This panel, commissioned before a new prime minister has himself been appointed, is to consider alternative arrangements for the Irish border after Brexit.
Mr Campbell informs the public that the panel ‘includes assistant chief constable Tim Mairs from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and Katy Hayward from Queen’s University, Belfast’.
There are also representatives on the panel from Northern Ireland business groups.
Unionist politicians will be mindful that Northern Ireland business groups and Dr Katy Hayward have a very different understanding of Brexit to that of the majority of the unionist electorate.
The very poor showing of the Unionist Party in the recent European elections is an indicator that the majority of the Northern Ireland unionist electorate are very pro-Brexit.
Dr Hayward appears to be steeped in the ‘Remain’ camp.
Over the last two years I have being urging the unionist political community to publicise the growing under-representation of unionist / Protestant students, researchers and academics situated within the Northern Ireland university sector.
Within the last few days in Northern Ireland there have been more judicial and legal representatives appointed to deliberate on a host of matters including; criminal and family law, legacy issues and the decriminalisation of those convicted of ‘minor’ offences.
More recently, the unionist community appears to be continually overlooked when it comes to making appointments to important (legal) decision making bodies.
The demographic imbalance within the senior management of the NI Arts Council and the NI Equality Commission is evidence of my concerns.
It is my contention that the growing (demographic) imbalances of those students who progress through certain university faculties in Northern Ireland has now reached a critical stage whereby there is little, perhaps even no unionist academic input into new bodies deciding upon important societal matters.
Publishing the growing demographic differentials in university faculties such as; law, education, social policy studies, political studies, urban geography, social work, languages, history, anthropology and cultural studies, is the first step in a corrective process that will of itself take several decades.
I suggest that it is essential that within future appointments to the judiciary, new legal commissions and constitutional panels (such as the post-Brexit panel) that there is equal representation from the unionist (academic and legal) community.
In the interim, the unionist political community, unless they recognise the scale and seriousness of the problem, can only expect more of the same, that is appointments of Northern Ireland university academics such as Katy Hayward to advisory bodies without a quid pro quo, unionist academic voice.
Dr Edward Cooke, Newtownabbey