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Mary Kelly: Loyalists' Brexit protocol delusion continues

A survey of loyalists has backed calls to collapse the Assembly in protest at the NI Protocol issue. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Mary Kelly

THE Spanish have saying to mock the English for their excessive love of animals: "Patas para los ninos, besos para los perros," which roughly translates as "kicks for children, kisses for dogs".

I first heard it as a student when I told my incredulous Spanish host, Miguel, that my family had paid what he regarded as a fortune to have my cat's leg amputated when it was knocked down just a day before my departure.

"Why didn't you just hit it with a brick and finish it off," he asked as his English wife, Sonia winced.

This was 1980 when there had been a slew of tabloid stories about donkeys or goats being thrown off bell towers during traditional fiestas with headlines about the "sick senors".

The phrase came to mind when I heard how a planeload of stray cats and dogs was among the last flights out of Kabul. They were assisted through the airport by British soldiers, as distraught Afghan residents, at risk of torture and murder by the Taliban, were left standing in sewage drains outside.

The animals, and their former soldier turned rescuer, Paul 'Pen' Farthing, were airlifted in a privately chartered plane after a vociferous media campaign. His Afghan staff, whom he had insisted would also get out, were left behind in the end after their paperwork was rejected.

Tory MP and ex-serviceman Tom Tugendhat, who has been struggling to get his former interpreter into the UK, was lost for words: "We've just used a lot of troops to get in 200 dogs; meanwhile my interpreter's family is likely to be killed. When one interpreter asked me a few days ago, "Why is my five-year-old worth less than a dog?" I didn't have an answer."

Witness, too, the doomed campaign to save Geronimo the alpaca from being put down, despite two positive tests for bovine TB. Have people gone mad?

The US President has sworn vengeance for the suicide bomb attack on Kabul airport which killed 170, including 13 American soldiers. The US also swore vengeance after 9/11. Look how that has turned out.

It beggars belief that a so-called superpower could be responsible for the shambles that is the Afghanistan evacuation.

The French got their people out in May. Flat-footed and arrogant America and supine Britain put it on their 'to do' list, despite many warnings from their military people that those Afghans who had helped foreign forces were now in mortal danger.

So Biden, Johnson and Raab were all on holiday when Kabul fell to the Taliban. Leadership, eh?

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JOHN Hume's da famously said of national symbols: "You can't eat a flag."

That wisdom is surely missing from the current debate about whether the Tricolour could be acceptable to unionists in a united Ireland. Eh?

Let's be realistic. They could hoist the Rangers flag over Dáil Éireann and move the Queen and her heirs to Áras an Uachtaráin, and unionists would still not be happy.

It's a delusion to think that they will ever be wooed willingly to see the merits of a changed Ireland, whatever colour the flag is, because they don't usually deal well with realities.

Look at the results of the Loyalist Engagement Survey which, according to its organisers, had more than 1,000 responses.

Of these, 91 per cent wanted the NI Protocol abolished, with just 8 per cent in favour of the more likely solution of amending it to make it "tolerable".

And who do they blame for this hated protocol which they overwhelmingly see as a threat to the north's constitutional position within the UK? Most lay the blame on the British government, followed by the EU, the Irish government and the DUP, with Brexit supporters only in last place.

And what's the answer? Boycott north-south meetings, say eight out of 10 loyalists, while 89 per cent say the assembly should be collapsed in protest. If that isn't delusional, I don't know what is.

Of course, all pro-union people aren't loyalists, nor are they even DUP voters, if recent polls are correct.

But will they ever consider that they could be in a parliament in Dublin with more seats and more influence than at Westminster? Nope.

The problem is that many would wonder how they could still exist as unionists, if that union was taken away from them.

The trick for those who believe in Irish unity is making them feel a union with the rest of the people on this island is a better bet.

We really want them, which is more than than those in the other union do. But please - not Ireland's Call for the anthem.

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