By Cllr David Clark
Unionism faces its biggest week in living memory. It has a very simple but clear choice to make: to implement the Protocol/Windsor Framework which would mean the beginning of the end of the Union OR to stand firm and insist that the DUP honors its pledges and commitments by continuing to show their unalterable opposition to the Windsor Framework.
The stakes could not be higher as to endorse this latest version of the Protocol is to accept that Northern Ireland will never again be a full and integral part of the United Kingdom as stated in The Belfast Agreement which is cherished by so many, especially when it suits their narrative.
It is a price that no true Unionist worthy of the name should ever be willing to pay, no matter what bribes, blackmail or personal gain one may think it may get them.
The future of Northern Ireland and the Union should trump all of that!
‘For what so shall it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’
It is very clear that The DUP is bitterly divided on ‘The Surrender Deal’ despite Sir Jeffrey’s protestations. Lord Dodds and my MP Sammy Wilson amongst others have rightly publicly voiced their opposition to it.
In July 2023 Lord Dodds stated with conviction that The Windsor Framework ‘utterly fails’ the party’s 7 tests. Indeed, Party Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson stated that the 7 tests would be the yardstick by which he and his party would judge any deal to restore Stormont.
What has changed?
Why has just a very small team of close allies of his been negotiating the deal?
Why have those Party Officers who are not on the same page as him been excluded to a large extent?
Why is the deal including the full legal text still not being published?
What are they trying to hide?
The DUP fought not one but 2 recent elections on the basis that they would not return to Stormont until their 7 tests were met in full.
It is clear that any deal that is currently on the table will not do that, as it is clearly outside the parameters of these talks. DUP elected representatives also need to recognise that mere tinkering around the edges is not sufficient, nor is using softer language or renaming the Protocol with a more British sounding name for the optics.
What is required is fundamental change to include, inter alia: – restoring Article 6 of The Act of Union – removing The Irish Sea Border in full – removal of EU Law and its foreign court – restoring and respecting Northern Ireland’s rightful place within the United Kingdom and its internal market.
Nothing less will do for any Unionist who recognises and acknowledges the dire constitutional implications of this proposed surrender deal.
Jim Allister KC MLA (the leader of The TUV) and others have led from the front on this from the very outset, whilst others have foolishly talked about the ‘best of both worlds’, the supposed ‘opportunities’ and that ’customs checks do not mean that you change the constitutional status of a part of the United Kingdom’.
The time has come I believe for every DUP elected representative and party member to take a strong stand and resolutely oppose the implementation of the very thing the party has said for the last 2 years that it vehemently opposes.
It should not be lost on them that it will be those very representatives on the ground who will face the wrath of the grassroots unionist community who will undoubtedly feel totally betrayed.
What means more to you?
Do you want to be a member of a party which does not keep its word by honouring fundamental commitments made?
Would you prefer to join us, the people who have principles, integrity and morals and continue to keep to the United Unionist declaration made on Ulster Day of 2021?
In closing, I would urge Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to seriously consider this before he makes what many in his own community believe to be the most ill-judged, damaging and catastrophic decision that Unionism has ever made in its history.
‘Integrity is the most valuable and respected quality of leadership. Always keep your word.’
Cllr David Clarke was a former DUP Cllr but recently resigned from the party. He sits as an independent councillor on Mid and East Antrim Council.