The application brought by Sinn Fein activist Sean Napier (‘the applicant’) has helpfully brought matters to a head in relation to how the Protocol is causing political and societal difficulties to an undeniable standard.
That Government Ministers are finding themselves having to act unlawfully out of principle is the clearest signal yet of the political and societal difficulties being caused by the imposition of the Protocol. The very core planks of Government in Northern Ireland are beginning to fall away, therefore making the case for triggering Article 16 even more irresistible.
In that respect, the applicant Mr Napier has done the cause of Protocol opposition much good. Not only is the case for triggering Article 16 now monumentally stronger, but the legal action which caused the High Court declaration has ignited a spirit of defiance within unionism and thus energised the PUL electorate.
Of course, it is for the DUP to capitalise on the gift presented to it by virtue of the Sinn Fein encouraged litigation brought by the applicant. That means ensuring they quite appropriately act in defiance of the declaration, and any order of mandamus which may ultimately follow.
If the choice is between compliance with the law at the expense of the very constitutional integrity of your country, or a defiant principled stand in defence of your country, there can only ever be one answer. When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.
The worst thing the DUP could do is try to fudge the issue. That would only waste the potential presented by the current situation. The opportunity to ignite a collective unionist stand is now, and one would imagine every unionist Minister and MLA would stand in support of those taking such a stand.
Whatever about the UUP’s Stockholm syndrome when it comes to the Belfast Agreement, or their unbending allegiance to pernicious North-South bodies, surely even that party- of Carson and Craig- would now accept that the time has come to make a stand.
The declaration issued by Scoffield J is merely that, a declaration. It does not compel any person to comply with it. This declaration may become an order of mandamus compelling attendance, but nevertheless the defiance should continue.
Any observers of the case will already have seen positive signs in relation to the DUP position. A point which is largely misunderstood, and misreported, is that the DUP Ministers did not even contest the case. Their senior counsel – acting on instructions of his clients- accepted it was unlawful, but made clear to the court that they were taking their position on a point of principle and refused to offer any assurances that they would lift the boycott of North-South meetings.
The temptation on the part of some in the DUP will of course be to use the declaration of Scoffield J as a ‘way out’ and meekly comply with their duties under the 1998 Act. That would be to fail to recognise that sometimes in the moral hierarchy principle comes above law, and it so follows that if required then the law must give way to principle in terms of the personal decisions made by citizens.
There may of course be consequences, large or small. Throughout history there has always been consequences for those who stood against injustice.
What if the people of Ulster had meekly rolled over when faced with the terrorist campaign of Sinn Fein’s IRA?
This Protocol is an assault on the very fabric of our precious Union. A vicious attack on the Union that our forefathers fought and died to defend, that people when to graveyards for and were slaughtered by the IRA because of their unbending loyalty to it.
A foreign power, aided and abetted by an aggressive and covetous Irish Government in collaboration with nationalists (whose agenda has always been the destruction of our Union) seek to subjugate us as a colony of the EU, all the while incrementally carving up our Union- tearing it apart limb by limb.
No self-respecting unionist could, or should, be complicit in that. When faced with such a threat in bygone days, Sir Edward Carson (he of the UUP) raised an army to defy any attempt to rob our country from us.
If young men and women could give their lives in defence of our country, if unionists could stand defiant against the IRA terrorist campaign even when faced with unspeakable acts of evil and if our wee country could hoist the Union flag in the darkest days of two World Wars then it really isn’t much to ask that DUP Ministers would merely defy a piece of paper emanating from the High Court.
What, in reality, consequences would really flow? And if there is concern over consequences then the answer to that is easy; resign.
For what so shall it profit a man, to gain the whole world but lose his own soul.