Timely US visit confirms protocol is here to stay


By Brian Feeney (for Irish News)

The visit of Richie Neal and his congressional colleagues to Brussels, London, Dublin and Belfast could not have occurred at a more opportune moment.

The powerfully influential US delegation brought a cold douche of reality to the people on internal manoeuvres in the Conservative party, though it’s too much to expect a similar effect on the DUP fantasists.

Nonetheless, being confronted with the realpolitik of US power helps place matters here in perspective even if it’s lost on people consumed with their own imagined victimhood like Jeffrey Donaldson. It won’t stop the stream of false assertions from him, the latest being that implementing the protocol would produce an ‘economic tsunami’. Just like his ludicrous protocol cost of £850 million a year. No evidence ever provided for any assertion but he keeps churning them out despite each one being demolished and ridiculed.

The recent concern about economic prosperity here from Jeffrey “I could live with 40,000 job losses” Donaldson contradicts his lack of concern about the cost of living crisis which his desperate tactics is exacerbating. After all, he’s personally responsible for £441 million remaining tied up unavailable to people in need here as well as the inability to produce a three-year health budget.

Among the many blind spots in Donaldson’s worm’s eye view is the one the American delegation’s tour have made clearest of all: the protocol is here to stay. Boris Johnson knows that, Liz Truss knows that, and yes, so do the obligatory dogs in the street. US, EU and Irish solidarity is rock hard. The only person who doesn’t get it is Donaldson. As you’ve read here before, he’ll be kept jiggling as a lever until Johnson gets through the Conservative conference in October and sets sail for a possible general election in 2023, but never pulls the redundant lever. What a sucker.

In the meantime Donaldson’s antics, choreographed by his Brexiteer masters at Westminster, have prompted real political developments in Ireland. Most have been obscured by the hot air emanating from the DUP and the bandwidth afforded to them by local media here who can’t see the wood for the trees. For example, Leo Varadkar made an important speech on May 17 to a business dinner in Dublin. It marked a change in the Dublin government’s attitude (or Fine Gael’s) to governance in the north. Among other points Varadkar made was this: “I do think we’ll need to clarify the mechanism for calling a border poll. Surely it should involve the Northern Ireland Assembly and not just be the judgment of the Secretary of State. We would also need to know what the question was and have clear proposals as to what unification would look like.”

He also said, that if it proved impossible to resurrect the Stormont executive “after weeks or months of talks, direct rule cannot be accepted as an alternative. We’ll need to look at other options and this should be done under the auspices of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference”. Indeed it was precisely for such circumstances that the BIIGC was established in the Good Friday Agreement. Once again nationalists will appreciate master tactician Donaldson’s contribution to Irish unity.

Varadkar’s speech came after Bertie Ahern on May 7 called for the “huge preparation work” for a border poll to begin. On May 19 Neale Richmond asked for the establishment of an all-party Oireachtas committee on Irish unity to prepare for a border poll. In short, there’s only one direction of travel and the speed of the vehicles travelling have been accelerated by the Conservative-DUP conspiracy to dismantle the GFA.

Admittedly Varadkar entered some caveats, describing the north’s election results by trendily emphasising “three minorities”. Let’s not get carried away by the Alliance vote share which was 13.5 per cent. Over 80 per cent as usual voted for green or orange parties and led by Donaldson the orange parties seem determined to prove this place is a failed entity.

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