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Writing in Saturday's News Letter, Party Chairman Lord Morrow said,

My warning that the current crisis is on a par with the Ulster Workers’ Council strike was intended as a wake-up call to those who can change the course we are presently on.

These exhortations have fallen on deaf ears and unionist concerns have been denied. The Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has contributed to the crisis, whether in relation to flouting Covid rules or by calling for the “rigorous implementation” of the protocol.

I do not excuse the UK government for its role in present difficulties, but there has been little attention on the divisive role of the Irish government and European Commission (EC). It should not have taken a riot for people to wake up to the fact that the NI Protocol is completely unacceptable to all unionist parties.

It should have been obvious that almost no unionists could support an Irish Sea border which separates us from the rest of the UK.

Every right-thinking person will condemn the violence we have seen in recent days. The threat or spectre of violence cynically used in the Brexit negotiations, to prevent so much as a camera on the border with the Republic of Ireland, must also be condemned.

Unionists remember the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar presenting EU leaders with a report of an IRA bombing of a border customs post in 1972. The message he was seeking to convey was clear.

Many of the problems that exist today are a direct result of the aggressive approach towards unionism by the Irish government and the EC.

The Belfast Agreement was weaponised by the Irish government yet there is not a word in the Belfast Agreement to justify the notion that a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is a breach of that agreement.

Those politicians in the Republic who have engaged in these tactics castigate those of us in NI who legitimately voted to leave the EU.

They also attack the DUP for rejecting earlier Brexit deals but fail to mention that all the options put forward by the government also created a regulatory border in the Irish Sea.

For a while some could have been fooled into thinking that the key motivation of the EC was to ‘defend the peace process’. However, for the EC the integrity of the single market ranks high above peace in Northern Ireland. When the UK government took the most modest action imaginable to protect the local economy by extending grace periods, they were subject to abuse from the Irish foreign minister.

If we are to find a way out of the present difficulties a more conciliatory approach will be needed from the Irish government and the EC. More importantly the UK government will need to make good on the prime minister’s commitment of no checks on goods from Great Britain to NI.

Ultimately that is what will help calm the situation here.

Lord Morrow of Clogher Valley,
DUP chairman