“As we enter 2022 there will be many people with concerns about the continuing Covid issues and what this could mean for all of us throughout the year. Hopefully the early indications of the latest variation being a milder one will be proven correct, but we all need to remain vigilant and careful.
On the political front the year has the potential to be a very important one with the Census outcome in the next few months, the problems presented by the protocol and the Assembly elections due in May.
The Census return is likely to be a repeat of previous trends in terms of community background with Northern Ireland being an increasingly diverse society. The announcement before Christmas of the closure of all 19 Polish food retail shops here, in part due to the protocol causing major problems bringing food from GB to shops here is the latest demonstration of why there has to a realistic re assessment by our Government, of this disastrous protocol. The Assembly election is more difficult to predict but there is one fairly certain outcome which is that political differences will not be resolved when the election results are declared.
The most dangerous aspect for 2022 is that Sinn Fein has not taken steps to lower expectations amongst their Irish republican supporting community. Instead they have allowed the fanciful notion that Northern Ireland could leave the United Kingdom. This means that over time as the real world dawns on them, their more excitable support base will feel betrayed and look at other, possibly violent options.
In the past Unionists could have pressed for a 'totally Unionist solution' of total integration within the UK, which would have finally ended any possibility of constitutional change. Getting majority support at the ballot box for this option wouldn't have meant it being implemented as whole swathes of exclusively Nationalist Northern Ireland wouldn't have accepted or made it work, just so in any 'totally Nationalist solution' about NI leaving the U.K., whole swathes of exclusively Unionist Northern Ireland would do likewise.
The irony is, of course, that no one has done more to bring about those geographically and politically divided towns and villages than the terrorist paramilitary group associated most closely with Sinn Fein for a generation and more, the Provisional IRA. When all the verbiage is stripped away, this is why SF’s divisive border poll calls will fail and we all have to make Northern Ireland work better for all of us."