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"Northern Ireland Office playing politics with Unionists" | Jim Allister KC MLA

Not for the first time the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) is callously playing politics to try and coerce unionists - something they never dared try with republicans during the three years of the Sinn Fein boycott of Stormont over the Irish Language Bill. This time it is over the long-promised £600 energy payment.

When the Secretary of State says the lack of an assembly and executive is holding up the distribution of this Westminster package he is peddling fatuous nonsense. We still have precisely the same departments, fully manned by civil servants, this was proved with the delivery of the Covid payments. It was the Land and Property Services at the Department of Finance as well as others who worked up the Covid delivery. They still fully exist.

Sadly, the NIO is shamelessly politicking and trying to force Unionist politicians into submission on the issue of the Union-dismantling Protocol. It must not happen.

Meanwhile, the same Secretary of State, on whose instructions last week, in the Supreme Court it was accepted the Protocol has ‘disapplied’ Art 6 of the Acts of Union - a key cornerstone of the Union - seems to have come to the EU view that it is the mere ‘functioning’ of the Protocol that is at issue. It is not.

It is the very existence of a Protocol which is premised on Great Britain being a foreign country to Northern Ireland and whose goods must be checked and subjected to EU tariffs at an Irish Sea border before being admitted to Northern Ireland.

This and our subjection to the laws of a foreign legislature are the sovereignty issues which must be addressed if our integral place in the U.K. is to be restored and if Stormont is ever to return.

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