Northern Ireland news

Irish-American businessman says David Trimble's claims of betrayal over NI Protocol are 'misplaced'

Irish-American businessman Dr Francis Costello

AN Irish-American economic consultant who served in the Clinton administration said David Trimble's claim that he feels "personally betrayed" by the Irish Sea border is "misplaced".

Dr Francis Costello, who works to promote investment in Northern Ireland, said although he admired Lord Trimble's contribution to the peace process, the peer was wrong to suggest that discontent over the Northern Ireland Protocol, introduced as part of the Brexit agreement, could lead to violence.

"I would be the last person to devalue David Trimble's heroic political contribution... But the fact is we have to be very careful with the language we use, everybody has to be, in high politics or at grassroots," Dr Costello said.

He said the Protocol is an "imperfect answer" but "has to be resolved amicably, reasonably and needs cool heads prevailing".

Lord Trimble, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the Good Friday Agreement, has called for the Protocol to be scrapped.

Lord Trimble

He said it did not protect the 1998 peace accord but instead "wilfully tears it up".

The peer also warned that tensions created by checks on goods arriving from Britain "represent a real and present danger to the lives of people living in Northern Ireland".

"If the genuine grievances and resentments caused by the protocol are not addressed politically, then there is real potential for those who have engaged in past violence to take action again into their own hands," he wrote in the Irish Times.

Dr Costello, who knows Lord Trimble, said he felt the peer's "sense of betrayal is misplaced".

He said he understood frustration around Brexit but said it was "always going to create havoc with the economy here".

"The question remains how to minimise that havoc and the Protocol is what was agreed, as all parties know, in order to get the December agreement over the line between the UK government and the European Union.

"There were other proposals before that were rejected by the unionist parties."

Dr Costello cautioned against renewed suggestions of customs checks along the Irish border.

"We're talking not just about livelihoods but people's lives and inferences about a land border, or resurrecting implausible suggestions about technology along the border are not realistic," he said.

Irish-American businessman, John J Cullinane, who has worked to promote peace through jobs and economic development, said foreign investors look for political stability.

"The worst thing is to give them pause for concern when they are making a decision that could mean more jobs for the island, either in the north or the south," he said.

"So, it’s very easy for them to change their minds based on uncertainties, real or imagined, and what is happening, politically, at any moment on the island of Ireland."

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