It was like a scene from a bygone era, or at least we hoped it was a bygone era. Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney spoke at the Building Common Ground event organized by the John and Pat Hume Foundation at the Houben Center on Crumlin Road in Belfast.
An event that should be about peace and reconciliation. Step out of the past and find common ground between the communities on either side of the northern divide.
Coveney was speaking of the Humes’ “unwavering commitment to principled and peaceful change” when he was approached onstage by a member of his security team, who was whispering in his ear.
The minister gathered his notes and told the audience he had to go.
“I hope I’ll be back in a few minutes, you just have to understand that,” he said before exiting the venue and being driven to a safe place through its security detail.
Outside the center, police were alerted to a van carrying a suspicious device, which had been forcibly driven to the venue by an innocent man whose family had been threatened.
It later came into being Device was a joke.
The loyalist group UVF is suspected of having planned the attack.
The intimidating act is prompted by the ongoing debate over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is essentially a trade agreement between the EU and the UK.
The agreement has led to heightened tensions in the north as it has created a de facto border along the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
All of this, of course, was triggered by the 2016 Brexit vote, which saw Britain leave the EU.
The British referendum was taken up by trade unionists in the North and the fallout is still being felt across the region.
Irish ministers have become hate figures for loyalist thugs who believe the protocol is a first step towards a united Ireland.
Derogatory graffiti has been scrawled on walls criticizing Mr Coveney and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.
This attack on Mr Coveney has escalated sectarian hatred to a new and worrying level.
Deputy Police Chief Mark McEwan condemned the “disgraceful” attack.
Although the device placed in the van was a hoax, it still sent a message as Northern Ireland’s political parties prepare for the upcoming general election.
More than two dozen homes were evacuated during the security alert, local schools were affected and vulnerable nursing home residents had to be relocated.
The need for calm among leaders in the North is needed now more than ever.
Protocol has been used as a political toy by parties on both sides of the divide.
Nobody in these parties wants to go back to the dark days of the riots.
The senseless attacks of people whose only goal is to cause chaos should be widely condemned.
There was always some level of menace for ministers when they traveled north.
The Garda Commissioner recently recommended giving all cabinet ministers Garda drivers.
This is a work in progress, and not all ministers have garda protection.
However, Justice Secretary Helen McEntee’s spokesman declined to say whether there will be more security for ministers after yesterday’s incident.
Mr. Coveney has spent a significant portion of his tenure building bridges between communities in the north, and loyalist thugs will not keep him from his work.
But in the back of his mind, he will keep yesterday’s events in mind as he travels north of the border for future events.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/ministers-from-the-republic-have-become-hate-figures-among-loyalist-thugs-who-believe-the-protocol-is-first-step-toward-a-united-ireland-41489142.html Republic ministers have become hate figures among loyalist thugs who believe the protocol is the first step towards a united Ireland