Leading article

Stormont progress should start today

Few observers are expecting today's Stormont Assembly sitting to result in the full restoration of our power-sharing structures but there is absolutely no sustainable reason to prevent a speaker from being elected.

While unionist MLAs strenuously object to the protocol, and their views must always be taken seriously, they are well aware that it was created through an international agreement with the European Union which was negotiated and signed by the British prime minister Boris Johnson only two years ago.

It has aspects which are fully capable of being revised by those who designed it, but those issues will not be resolved at Parliament Buildings, and it is appalling that measures which will prevent hardship in all sections of our divided society are being blocked by the imposition of an entirely misconstrued veto.

Some form of protocol was an inevitable outcome of the Brexit for which the DUP in particular campaigned without realising the full likely consequences along what was to become the only land division between the EU and the UK.

When DUP leaders heard Mr Johnson say that an Irish Sea border would only be allowed over his dead body, they should surely have realised that, on the basis of his track record, it would happen as surely as night follows day.

It always needs to be stressed that Brexit, which has turned all our political understandings on their head, was opposed by a firm majority of voters in Northern Ireland, with supporters of the protocol again in a decisive 53/37 Stormont advantage after the Assembly election earlier this month.

The idea that the DUP's objections to these developments might be based on the principles of consent attached to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which the same party fought against tooth and nail, is almost beyond parody.

Quite apart from the verdict of the electorate, it is worth studying the views of the director general of the Confederation of British Industry on the impact the protocol is having on the business community.

Tony Danker, on a visit to his home city of Belfast last week, said that, for companies involved in manufacturing or exporting, access to the EU single market and its UK counterpart ``is a great competitive advantage and it's working really well''.

The DUP has left itself in a curious position and the process of taking some small steps forward should really begin today.

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