Micheál Martin’s statesmanlike generosity is key to getting this nascent “framework” to work…

On the RTÉ Six One News just now, Tanaiste Micheál Martin has said that credit is due to the DUP for raising key flaws within the previous Northern Ireland Protocol. It’s a rare admission from the wider nationalist leadership, but an important one.

As someone who usually keeps schtum about his own private views of Irish politics in favour of a more connected analysis of what we know at any one time it took Brexit to drive me off the fence and into taking a public position against it.

But aside from the economic downsides of moving away from your own largest overseas market the escalation of rhetoric into one of conflict within the UK press between the UK and the EU was never going to have welcome ramifications in Ireland.

There were too many Irish commentators who were only too willing to go down the route of putting all the blame on ‘perfidious Albion’ and walking away from the overriding need to find a viable solution (or at least various sides could acquiesce in).

To his credit, this is where Martin stepped in where others feared to tread, where other nationalist leaders were only too willing to join in in a mass ridicule the DUP’s embarrassingly lonely vigil to change the terms of the protocol in favour of NI PLC.

Some years back my old mucker Trevor Ringland provocatively (and to some puzzlingly) said we are not leaving the European Union, merely renegotiating our relationship with it. It was a rare sane perspective at a point many departures from sanity…

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Our NI leaders must put down their tribal spears to create the space for something new to grow. I won’t rush to judgment on this deal, but let’s not continue to throw away our futures by sticking with the “gainless” minus sum games of the past few years.

Martin’s quieting of the loud, dramatising rhetoric on his side has (finally) found the sober partner in the new British PM that his consistent statesmanship deserved and was broadly needed to start moving things away from hands of the fanatic.

He deserves credit on his side of the Irish Sea. But it requires other nationalist leaders to recognise that discounting everything unionists say as a cypher for something far more sinister has to go. Like it or not, under the GFA, Unionists do matter.

The Belfast Agreement can only work through the sort of pragmatic flexibility we have seen facilitated by Martin’s term as head of government (and now minister of foreign affairs) between the British government and the European Union.


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