Assembly must stay

While there can be doubt that the Northern Ireland Protocol is causing unnecessary difficulties, politically and economically, the solutions are not to be found in brinkmanship, political posturing or in threats to collapse the Assembly.

As with most things in Northern Ireland politics, reactions to Jeffery Donaldson’s announcement have been based largely on an ‘us and them’, or a nationalist / unionist basis

The European Union’s negotiation strategy throughout this process has been, and remains unnecessarily belligerent and punitive: something that its local political fan club refuses to accept. The British government is not without blame for its approach either.

However, the reality is that beyond the tribal responses, there are issues which need to be addressed. Of course, it is possible to ensure the integrity of the EU single market by some of the means already proposed by the local business community amongst others.

Only goods which are at risk of onward travel to the Republic of Ireland pose a potential problem. Northern Ireland consumable goods do not. Workable solutions are available.

The bigger political picture however, is that the Protocol issue is being used to electioneer ahead of the Assembly poll next May. The DUP are trying to secure their position and make up ground while other parties are more than happy to do the same.

The Protocol is being used to further polarise this society, increase community tensions and consolidate the two major sectarian voting blocs.  It cannot and must not be used as an excuse to, once again, bring down the Assembly.

Our current situation demands the delivery of high-quality public services, a health and care service fit for the 21st Century, secure well-paid employment, a cleaner safer environment and a guaranteed quality of life for all. There must be no avoiding those responsibilities, no pulling the plug on the Assembly and no use of the Protocol, or any other pretext, to divert the focus away from those goals.

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