In a headline-grabbing intervention yesterday, former First Minister Peter Robinson raised the question of whether opposition to the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol should go as far as collapsing the Northern Ireland Assembly.
I respectfully suggest that flies in the face of the history of unionist protests over the last 35 years.
In late 1985, unionists were rightly outraged that our constitutional status was changed without consultation when the British Government signed the Anglo Irish Agreement, giving the government of Ireland an official say in our affairs.
Over 100,000 unionists protested outside Belfast City Hall. Unionist politicians boycotted government ministers, including those from the Northern Ireland Office. Every unionist MP resigned to force by-elections.
Net result? Serious public disorder on our streets, the alienation of every friend we had in Westminster and Whitehall, and the loss of a seat to nationalism, in the shape of Seamus Mallon, who became a very powerful voice in the House of Commons. The Agreement stayed in place.
In early 1994, President Bill Clinton controversially granted Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams a visa to speak at a conference in New York City. The leaders of the other four main local parties had already agreed to speak.
In protest at the Adams decision, the two unionist leaders, James Molyneaux and Ian Paisley, not only withdrew from the conference, they cancelled their flights. It was akin to a football manager placing the ball on the penalty spot and ordering his goalkeeper to step away to give the opposition a free hit.
I understand why they could not have shared a platform with Gerry Adams, given the IRA were fully active, but they could and should have travelled to America and hosted their own event, giving the media an alternative view with which to challenge Sinn Fein.
Skip forward to Christmas 2012 and the vote by Belfast City Council to stop flying the Union Flag every day from City Hall. Again, street protests led to serious public disorder but the flagpole remained bare, save for designated days.
Need I go on? The trend is clear. It is of unionism reacting to events with short term tactics, when longer term strategy is required. Peaceful protest is a legitimate right in a democracy and may serve the useful purpose of demonstrating the depth and breadth of feeling on an issue.
But it comes at a cost; in the case of the flag protest, several million pounds in terms of policing, not to mention the global distribution of some very ugly scenes. Importantly, it does not achieve the intended results.
What does work is negotiation. The Anglo Irish Agreement went away because parties rolled up their sleeves and negotiated the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.
I do not think anyone, including Peter Robinson, is advocating pulling down the Assembly in the middle of the current health crisis.
I go further. Do not pull it down at all.
If there are problems, we need practical solutions.
We must continue to engage.
Mike Nesbitt is an Ulster Unionist MLA for Strangford