Northern Ireland news

Unionists are `perilously close' to rejecting the political process - Peter Robinson

Loyalist graffiti in Carrickfergus

UNIONISTS are "perilously close" to rejecting the political process, former DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson has warned.

Mr Robinson warned "it would be wrong to assume that in time unionists will calm down and eventually acquiesce. That is not my assessment."

The former East Belfast MP wrote in the News Letter he "can think of no period over my 50 years in politics where unionists have felt more alienated than they are now".

"We are perilously close to a line which, when crossed, will lock us all into a pattern all too familiar to my generation," he said.

"The genie will not easily be squeezed back into the bottle...

"My fear is that if it is not adequately addressed, estrangement from the political arrangements will, for some, morph into rejection of the political process... that may be expressed in voter apathy or protest voting but for others it will be vented more robustly".

Charlie Flanagan, chair of the Dáil's Foreign Affairs and Defence committee, described it as an "interesting and thoughtful piece... reflecting on unionism in these challenging times".

But, QUB Human Rights Professor, Colin Harvey asked: "How should this `advice' from Peter Robinson be interpreted?"

The former DUP leader said unionists feel a sense of "injustice" that they tried "to facilitate a stable, peaceful and shared society but are pilloried for not meeting each of the ongoing, incessant and unending demands from republicans to erase everything British and indulge everything Irish".

He wrote of "deflation and disappointment" at the "willingness of government to repeatedly cave-in to republicans lest the IRA resumes its violence or Sinn Féin's fellow-travellers in Dublin or Washington might be displeased".

His belief is that constitutional changes brought by the Northern Ireland Protocol create "a very real sense of alienation".

"Unionists discern that Northern Ireland's relationship with Great Britain has changed without their consent."

Referring to his work "with several organisations in conflict resolution", he warned "those with wisdom who have their finger on the pulse should recognise the signals when a people become disenchanted with the system".

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