ALTHOUGH Ekklesia does not have any associates in Northern Ireland at present, we are pleased to have policy and political analyst Peter McColl among a number of new and recent contributors to our comment section.
Peter wrote a good, short explainer on the situation there in relation to Brexit and the UK recently. As Miriam O’Callaghan remarked in relation to her new documentary on partition, there are vast chasms in people’s understanding of Northern Ireland, not least across Britain and inside the UK Government.
Since then, we have seen the dramatic resignation of DUP leader Edwin Poots, newly appointed Stormont first minister Paul Givan being told he will be expected to resign as part of the DUP leadership transition, and hardline loyalist protesters urging the DUP not to nominate a new First Minister unless the NI Protocol is abandoned. If they refuse to nominate a replacement, power-sharing would collapse.
The situation is extremely dangerous, and as Peter McColl commented on social media after the Poots resignation, the situation is made much worse by various bad faith actors looking to make political capital from a crisis of their own engineering. He wrote:
“For fundamentalists like Poots the Union is more important than their party. There is little motivation for the DUP in staying in a Stormont administration. Brexit offers the opportunity to align with a Tory party that is itself increasingly aligned on the belief that there should be one administration for the whole UK, and which is unconcerned about its international reputation.
“This may mean the abolition of the Stormont Assembly, the effective collapse of the Good Friday Agreement and the creation of a hard border in the island of Ireland. There are some parts of the loyalist community that hanker for a return to the Troubles, and who are set on goading republicans back to violence. A hard border and no devolved Assembly is how they think they can achieve this.
“This looks like the DUP strategy, and any embarrassment is worth it to save the Union. I worry this might mean a return to violence and that the current UK government is almost uniquely unsuited to managing this in a way that puts peace ahead of political positioning.”