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Those whom the gods wish to destroy...

by Frank Schnittger Tue Feb 23rd, 2021 at 11:24:58 AM EST

"Those whom the gods wish to destroy...they first make mad" is an apt description of N. Ireland unionists theses days. David Trimble, Arlene Foster and a rake of DUP luminaries are going all out to try and bring down the N. Ireland protocol - having welcomed it when Boris first announced his deal last year. Legal actions are threatened together with dark mutterings of loyalist unrest. It doesn't seem to have dawned on them that it is part of an international treaty which cannot be unilaterally abrogated, although, sadly, the European Commission may have given them that idea. The Irish Times has published my letter on the subject... (fourth letter down and see below).

Trimble and the NI protocol

A chara, - David Trimble writes that, "the Northern Ireland protocol ignores the fundamental principle of consent. Northern Ireland is no longer fully part of the UK - it has been annexed by the EU and is subject to EU laws and an EU court without any right of dissent."

Where was his concern for Northern Ireland consent when he and the DUP continued to pursue a policy of Brexit even after a large majority in the North had voted against it? The 56 per cent of Northern Ireland voters who voted remain do not appear to matter.

The Northern Ireland protocol he complains of is a direct result of the Brexit deal negotiated by the UK government on their behalf. Moreover, the Brexit deal negotiated by Theresa May would have avoided any need for a Northern Ireland protocol, but was roundly rejected by the DUP.

It seems unionists are all in favour of British rule when they do their bidding, and all against it when it is not to their liking. In practice, consent for David Trimble means consent by unionists only.

It may also have escaped David Trimble's attention that article 18 of the protocol provides for the Northern Ireland Assembly to vote on a regular basis to consent to the continued operation of the protocol.

Is he concerned that unionists may not be able to command a majority of the Assembly?

How much angrier will David Trimble be when "50 per cent plus one" vote for a united Ireland, a vote required by the Belfast Agreement he negotiated and still claims to support? The British government will then be legally obliged to transfer sovereignty over Northern Ireland to Ireland, regardless of what unionists might say.

He should be glad that the Northern Ireland protocol gives Northern Ireland the best of both worlds - relatively untrammelled access to both the UK internal market and the EU single market - to the envy of Scotland and many who voted Remain in the rest of the UK. - Yours, etc,

Just to add a little more fuel to the fire, I am also submitted a slightly longer letter to the Belfast Telegraph which may not be well received, if published...

David Trimble writes that "the Northern Ireland protocol ignores the fundamental principle of consent. Northern Ireland is no longer fully part of the UK" in his opinion piece in the Irish Times, where  [Belfast Telegraph columnist and former Unionist party communications director] Alex Kane also writes that he "can't remember a moment when unionism has been so unsettled."

But the DUP had a glorious opportunity after the Brexit vote to take on the leadership of both communities in N. Ireland and accept the decision of the 56% who voted remain. They could have negotiated on behalf of the large majority to secure a future in both the UK and the EU. Instead, they chose to go a narrow sectarian route and tried to impose a hard border within the island of Ireland just to spite their nationalist neighbours.

It never occurred to them that Ireland, as part of the EU, would have the negotiating clout to prevent that from happening.

And now they have the gall to argue there is a lack of consent to the protocol when it was negotiated on their behalf by their conservative "partners" in the UK government after they had thrice rejected Theresa May's deal which required no such N. Ireland protocol.

They also have the gall to ignore the fact that article 18 of the protocol requires the N. Ireland assembly to approve the continued operation of the protocol on a regular basis. Apparently "consent" for Trimble means not consent by 56% of the electorate or consent by a majority of the Assembly. It means consent by and for Unionists only.

But that is not what the Good Friday Agreement, negotiated by David Trimble, says: It requires just a 50%+1 majority to transfer sovereignty in total over N. Ireland from Britain to Ireland.

Unionists should be happy to still have the best of both worlds: continued membership of the United Kingdom and relatively free access to both the EU and UK markets, but of course some unionists are only happy when they can lord it over nationalists and claim to be victims at the same time.

Of course, what is really happening is that those unionists who supported Brexit in defiance of a large majority in N. Ireland are now furiously trying to deflect attention and the blame for this mess onto others - the EU, the British Government, the Irish Government - anybody but themselves where the responsibility truly lies.

They have overplayed their hand, and if they do so again, they could find the British government washing their hands of them completely. Just wait for the wailing and gnashing of teeth then.

It appears Sophocles had a point when he wrote: "Those whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first make mad" (Antigone)

DUP seems to have nothing left but the conflict, and keeping the conflict alive they will.

Then again, they are doing what their ancestors where sent there to do, and that the London government spent generations to make them do: keep conflict alive and prevent Irish unification. That the London government may not care much anymore just makes it more bitter.

by fjallstrom on Tue Feb 23rd, 2021 at 04:01:48 PM EST
As of right now the Republic would be foolish to accept control of NI.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Feb 23rd, 2021 at 04:07:03 PM EST
As you can see from my submission to the Constitution unit of University College Unit I am being very careful of what to wish for...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 23rd, 2021 at 04:12:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder if it would be a good idea (probably not!) to devolve the question down to the county level. Various maps suggest that roughly half of the NI counties opposed Brexit, and might--by extrapolation--be ok with joining the Republic.

by asdf on Tue Feb 23rd, 2021 at 05:11:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Basically the higher the nationalist population in an area, the greater the Remain vote. However some unionists also voted Remain, and so you can't extrapolate a Remain vote as a united Ireland vote.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 23rd, 2021 at 06:05:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Lord Reg Empey (Ulster Unionist Party leader from 2005 to 2010, and current party chairman) had this to say today:
"There has been widespread and, as far as I can see, universal unionist opposition to the protocol. "But, sadly, that was not always the case. "The border in the Irish Sea is a self-inflicted wound because on the day that Boris Johnson proposed it to the EU, the first people to back him were Arlene Foster and her 10 Westminster MPs. "On October 2, 2019, when the Prime Minister unveiled his plans to saw off this part of the United Kingdom from Great Britain, Mrs Foster described his plans as 'a serious and sensible way forward'. "The DUP's actions were reckless and have done untold constitutional and economic damage to Northern Ireland.

"Clearly the DUP were no match for the Prime Minister. "He ran rings around them, and today Mrs Foster is in no position to lead unionism out of the mess that she and her colleagues created."

There is no love lost between the UUP (Ulster Unionist Party) and the DUP, but Lord Empey seems to have overlooked that his former leader, David Trimble, also supported Brexit and the deal Boris negotiated, including the protocol.

The letter below mine in today's Irish Times makes that point emphatically:

Sir, - David Trimble's bare-faced chutzpah is astounding. He tells us that the Ireland/Northern Ireland protocol wilfully tears up the Belfast Agreement, changes fundamentally the constitutional position of Northern Ireland and "ignores the fundamental principle of consent".

This is the same man who, in his enthusiasm for a hard Brexit deal, told the Spectator in 2019 that the protocol was "a great step forward": "Whilst, previously, the people of Northern Ireland were to have an agreement imposed on them, now we have a mechanism for the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. This is fully in accordance with the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement".

To see David Trimble using that which he endorsed so emphatically to stoke resentment in the unionist population is to witness a staggering example of political irresponsibility. - Yours, etc,


Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 23rd, 2021 at 04:29:20 PM EST
Foster accuses European Commission of being tone deaf on impact of NI protocol
Northern Ireland First Minister says meeting over NI protocol was `hugely disappointing'.
The North's First MinisterArlene Foster has accused the European Commission of being tone deaf about the impact of the Northern Ireland protocol, describing a meeting on Wednesday of the EU-UK joint committee as hugely disappointing.

In a joint statement after the meeting, co-chairs Michael Gove and Maros Sevcovic said they needed to work together to find pragmatic solutions to problems in implementing the protocol.


[Sinn Féin Leader and Deputy First Minister] Ms O'Neill, said the meeting had been a "positive and constructive engagement." Ms O'Neill said it was "very timely that we had the discussions that we had today, not least because it gave both sides, the EU side and also the British government the opportunity to, as they did, to restate their commitment to implement the protocol."

Describing the meeting as "very pragmatic", she said it was "very clear from the discussions that there was a recognition, particularly given the recent engagement with the local business and civic society, that there are issues that need to be resolved, but both sides committed to try and define practical solutions and that's where everyone needs to be focused right now."

Business as usual. Unionist and nationalist leaders take diametrically opposed approaches...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 24th, 2021 at 11:56:22 PM EST
"Those whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad" appears to be of uncertain provenance. I recall reading that quote, when I was about eleven, in a version of Homer's The Iliad. Ajax was enraged because of rivalry with Achilles and slaughtered all of the sheep the Greeks hac brought to Troy as food on the hoof for the siege and that was Homer's description.

Now, using Google, I find that the phrase is also attributed to both Sophocles and Euripides. Perhaps a great quote has many fathers, or translators cannot resist improving the original.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Feb 26th, 2021 at 04:06:51 PM EST
I don't think that event is actually in The Illiad itself, I think it's part of the extended fanfic universe. So, Sophocles or Euripedes.
by Zwackus on Tue Mar 2nd, 2021 at 04:00:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to wiki, it is a quote from the Sophocles' play Antigone, but there re other versions and sources as well.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Mar 2nd, 2021 at 02:50:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wait, there was a time when the DUPes were sane?
by rifek on Sat Feb 27th, 2021 at 01:28:23 AM EST
No, but their intransigence worked for them, at least in the short-term. They are completely disorientated now, because for the first time in their lives, their intransigence is working against them.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Feb 27th, 2021 at 01:52:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Northern Ireland halts construction of inspection facilities for post-Brexit checks
LONDON -- The construction of permanent inspection facilities in Northern Ireland for post-Brexit checks on agri-food goods arriving from mainland Britain has been halted following an order from the devolved government's agriculture minister.

Gordon Lyons told the PA news agency on Friday that he has ordered a stop to construction works and recruitment of inspection staff for port facilities. He has also told ports not to levy charges on traders bringing goods from Great Britain into Northern Ireland.

Lyons, a Democratic Unionist Party politician, said the decision responds to the "practical difficulties" caused by the Northern Ireland protocol, a key part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement regulating the trading relationship with the EU single market.

"We don't know what the movement of retail goods from Great Britain into Northern Ireland is going to look like, we don't have the support in place through the digital assistance scheme yet either, and all of the SPS [sanitary and phytosanitary] issues around the end of the grace period are just so uncertain and it's a real nightmare for us and it's going to be causing us an awful lot of problems," Lyons was quoted as saying.

His order will not disrupt ongoing trade checks at existing repurposed port buildings and other temporary facilities.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sat Feb 27th, 2021 at 12:32:10 PM EST
The Treaty and Protocol are between the UK and EU and it is not for the devolved administration to frustrate it as it is the UK government which will be held accountable. How does not building decent facilities for inspectors fix any of the problems Lyons claims to be identifying?

But the EU has little leverage in N. Ireland as it is relying on the UK to implement the protocol. It can, however retaliate in Calais and make life v. difficult for UK exporters. I think Gove recognises this and is trying to make it work, but the DUP don't want it to work.

However if the DUP end up damaging UK interests in Calais etc. they will be sold down the river against faster than you can say Vos papiers s'il vous plait...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Feb 27th, 2021 at 02:06:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Monica McWilliams is emeritus professor in the Transitional Justice Institute at Ulster University and was a member of the Women's Coalition delegation to the Belfast Agreement negotiations in 1998

North's status under Belfast Agreement is an inconvenient truth

The whole point of the [Good Friday] agreement is that it was a careful and delicately balanced compromise which sought to reconcile a whole range of complex issues, having regard to the contested perspectives of its two main communities, nationalism and unionism. The outcome was a proposition that took account of both - not just one.

This is crisply captured in the very first paragraph of article 1 of the treaty between the British and Irish governments, accompanying the Belfast Agreement, which deals with the status of Northern Ireland as follows: "[The two governments] recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland."

But there is one other vital factor in article 1 of the treaty that has largely been missed in the entire debate about the protocol, namely the way that sovereignty is exercised in Northern Ireland.

Article 1(v) of the treaty makes clear that regardless of the choice that is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland on its status, "the power of the sovereign government with jurisdiction there shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their identities and traditions and shall be founded on the principles of full respect for, and equality of, civil, political, social and cultural rights, of freedom from discrimination for all citizens, and of parity of esteem and of just and equal treatment for the identity of, ethos and aspirations of both communities".

Okay, Shakespeare it is not. But in my view those words are enormously powerful and important. Boiled down, they make clear that this is about taking account in every respect of both traditions and that, yes, a majority decides at any one time whether the UK or Ireland has overall sovereignty in Northern Ireland, but the way that sovereignty is exercised is qualified by this requirement for "parity of esteem and just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities" (my italics).

Boiled down even further, it means that Northern Ireland's relationship to Britain, including its constitutional relationship, is not the same as other regions in the UK. It simply is not. I appreciate that inconvenient truth has been ignored and written out of the equation by many unionist leaders and commentators over the last 5½ years since the fateful Brexit vote.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Mar 1st, 2021 at 11:59:55 AM EST
The Belfast Telegraph has published an edited version of my letter to the Editor:

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Mar 1st, 2021 at 10:44:31 PM EST
Guardian: Brexit: Northern Ireland loyalist armies renounce Good Friday Agreement
A body that claims to represent loyalist paramilitary organisations has told Boris Johnson the outlawed groups are withdrawing support for Northern Ireland's historic peace agreement.

The Loyalist Communities Council (LCC) said the groups were temporarily withdrawing their backing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement amid mounting concerns about the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol governing Irish Sea trade post-Brexit.

However, they stressed that unionist opposition to the protocol should remain "peaceful and democratic".

Not good.

by IdiotSavant on Thu Mar 4th, 2021 at 03:50:59 AM EST
It may take a couple of years before they return to violence, e.g., bombs in Dublin, but they are on that trajectory.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sat Mar 6th, 2021 at 04:49:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Remember when Whitehall "officials" were waxing lyrical about European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, as opposed to his predecessor, "robotic" Barnier?

EU says UK risks breaking law with solo bid to ease Northern Irish checks - Politico.eu

Brussels accused Britain of risking a breach of international law after the U.K. unveiled plans to unilaterally extend grace periods on post-Brexit customs checks at Northern Ireland's ports for at least six months.

The U.K.'s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said measures due to come into force on April 1 under the terms of Britain's post-Brexit trade agreement with the EU must be postponed until October 1.

But European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič condemned the move Wednesday night, branding it "a clear departure from the constructive approach" to ongoing talks on Northern Ireland trade that would undermine trust. Ireland called it "deeply unhelpful."

The Commission said in a statement that it marked the "second time" the U.K. government had been "set to breach international law" after a heated row over the border erupted in 2020.

"Following the UK government's statement today, Vice-President Šefčovič has expressed the EU's strong concerns over the UK's unilateral action, as this amounts to a violation of the relevant substantive provisions of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and the good faith obligation under the Withdrawal Agreement," the statement said.

by Bernard (bernard) on Thu Mar 4th, 2021 at 06:54:07 PM EST
A Chara, - On first glance, the UK ambassador Paul Johnson's justification for the UK breaking the N. Ireland protocol seems reasonable. (British ambassador on the NI protocol, Letters, 5th. March.) It is, allegedly, trying to provide practical solutions to problems being experienced "in the everyday life of communities" and ensure cross-community support.

But the bottom line is that it is a justification for the UK once again breaking the solemn legal undertakings it entered into when it signed the Withdrawal and Trade and Cooperation agreements.

The fact that he invokes the EU's mistaken threat to invoke Article 16 in part justification merely adds insult to injury. The EU acknowledged its mistake and withdrew its threat within hours, whereas the UK is threatening to break the N. Ireland protocol deliberately and indefinitely, as it did with its Internal Market Bill last year prior to the signing of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

And let us be clear: The problems being experienced in the everyday life of communities are a direct result of the hard Brexit chosen by the Johnson administration with unionist support, to which no perfect solution is possible, and which are also being experienced by people south of the border when trying to procure items from Britain.

Trying to push the blame for these inconveniences onto European Commission "inflexibility" is a classic distraction tactic: They are an integral part of the form of Brexit negotiated and agreed by the UK government on behalf of N. Ireland.

And the Protocol itself, in Article 18, requires that the continued operation of the protocol be subject to the approval on a regular basis by a simple majority of the N. Ireland Assembly.

Although desirable, there is no absolute requirement for "cross-community" support in the protocol, and to raise it as a justification now is simply the resuscitation of the unionist veto when none is provided for either in the Protocol or the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.

Indeed, unionist politicians are currently trying to incite loyalist opposition to the protocol to cover up their complicity in promoting a hard Brexit in defiance of the wishes of the 56% majority in N. Ireland who voted Remain.

Seeking to redirect loyalist anger from the unionist politicians who misled them and onto the EU is a classic demagogic tactic and one we should not be complicit in.

As noted by Stephen Collins, (Johnson's unilateral breaking of NI protocol could go horribly wrong, Opinion, 5th. March) the European Parliament is due to ratify the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and accompanying protocol at the end of this month. It should not do so while the UK government is , once again, threatening to unilaterally breach its solemn Treaty obligations to the EU in defiance of international law.

And perhaps Paul Johnson should have a chat with his US ambassadorial counterpart. It is doubtful that the Biden administration will be too pleased to see the UK once agin proposing to breach international law.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Mar 5th, 2021 at 01:16:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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