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Unionism's dilemma: Eoghan Harris, Pete Shirlow, Sarah Creighton, John Kyle, Graham Gudgin and Philip Orr tell us what its leaders must do next


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Inspection: A site on Dargan Drive at Belfast Harbour where the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has plans to build a new permanent Northern Ireland Point of Entry facility

Inspection: A site on Dargan Drive at Belfast Harbour where the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has plans to build a new permanent Northern Ireland Point of Entry facility

PA

Inspection: A site on Dargan Drive at Belfast Harbour where the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has plans to build a new permanent Northern Ireland Point of Entry facility

Editor-at-Large Gail Walker finds out views of five more commentators.

Eoghan Harris

Although I believe the Irish Sea Border poses no economic threat to Northern Ireland, it has dealt an enormous political and psychological blow to unionists by damaging their sense of security as part of the United Kingdom. Too many commentators have tried to play down that psychic shock. They dismissively blame unionists for “ bringing it on themselves” by supporting Brexit and trusting Boris Johnson. There is some truth in this charge, but it leaves out far too much context. Simon Coveney, who took over the Northern Ireland portfolio equipped with a megaphone, has typically told unionists to “own it” – as if the Republic’s rigid position on the backstop played no part in forcing Johnson into a political corner – from which he predictably extricated himself by sacrificing what unionists see as a core principle. Accordingly, it’s critical for political parties in the Republic to show the same sensitivity as Taoiseach Micheal Martin who, while urging unionists to work the Protocol, has always acknowledged the deep sense of hurt involved. Like other shrewd observers, he sees unionist anger is not abating and that all politicians, whether in the UK, NI, ROI or the EU, should be aware of a highly and volatile situation, which thankfully has so far been contained by a responsible unionist and loyalist reaction.


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