British government ministers are treating the north of Ireland as a colonial outpost which must be visited, however briefly, in order to maintain the validity of their jurisdiction.
That was the only conclusion after a week which saw Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab (right) described as “a thief in the night” after his run to a border rendezvous, while Direct Ruler Karen Bradley bolted from a meeting in Belfast to catch a flight back to London after spending just 45 minutes talking to the North’s political parties.
Mr Raab visited Warrenpoint harbour in County Down on Friday, but dodged local elected representatives and the media who were excluded from the event.
With Brexit negotiations on the future configuration of Britain’s imposed border through Ireland at a crucial juncture, South Down MP Chris Hazzard expressed frustration at Raab’s behaviour.
“I think this is the perfect illustration of the cynicism and the disrespect that the Tory government is showing towards the electorate here in South Down and Ireland in general when it comes to Brexit,” he said.
“The fact the Tories run away from this every time is telling in itself.”
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald, who later had a meeting with Mr Raab, warned him not to “act recklessly” on the previously agreed Brexit ‘backstop’, which is intended to ensure there is no remilitarisation of the border area.
“We have told him that he and his government are acting in bad faith, that they have stepped back from the commitments that they made to protect the Good Friday Agreement in all of its parts, to ensure no hardening of the border on our island and to ensure no loss of rights for our citizens,” Ms McDonald said.
There was also scathing criticism of Direct Ruler Karen Bradley after she cut short a meeting with the North’s political parties to catch a flight, leaving senior politicians to describe the situation as “embarrassing”, a “waste of time” -- and worse.
Sinn Fein’s Mairtin O Muilleoir and John O’Dowd said Bradley was treating “large sections of this society with utter and complete contempt”.
Other sources described her briefing as a “shitshow’ and a “car crash”.
“The tone of it just stank,” one party official told the BBC. “I can’t emphasise enough how bad the atmosphere was.”