The stakes are high for Ireland in the battle for Tory leadership

SO MANY are the drivers, the Tory lead race is already being cast as a steeplechase. The field is gradually thinning out, but so much depends on the eventual winner.

As it is July 12th – a happy event for loyalists but fraught with foreboding for nationalists – it is worth remembering what is at stake.

Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to deal with it. And how badly we cope with it has been shown since Brexit.

Boris Johnson’s crowning glory was the fact that he had “done Brexit”. But alas, so much has also been undone.

A chaotic exit from the EU tore a gaping hole in the established trading and rules-based systems. There is no need now to rehash the dizzying steps that lead to the “protocol”.

Mr Johnson showed little interest in serving anything other than his own purpose.

The political nuances of the North – subtleties of differences in time and tradition so delicately woven into the fabric of the Good Friday Agreement – had to be handled with care and respect.

Unfortunately, in the rude haste to get to the escape exits, everyone was trampled on.

Therefore, superficial optimistic talk about jettisoning the protocol and tearing up the trade deal with the EU to restore harmony for the common good is not only wrong but dangerously reckless.

Mr Johnson’s approach has always been to downplay the complex problems of Anglo-Irish relations. But there’s no escaping the reality that dumping the protocol could well mean bringing back some sort of border.

It would be disingenuous for any new resident of 10 Downing Street to deny this. Because of this, Dublin and Brussels are hoping the new Conservative leader will be more open to restoring ties. We need better relations with the UK from which all sides can benefit. A secure footing is only possible through a more in-depth understanding.

The Good Friday Agreement grew out of the silence and better advice of those who kept quiet and listened.

Since Brexit, the rhetoric has polarized and cast a permafrost on close ties.

There was no serious intention to find a solution, let alone build one.

The collapse of Stormont and the DUP’s refusal to play any role in the recovery speak for themselves.

The players have elevated the drama to symphonic, if not operatic, levels.

Liz Truss has vowed to fix “problems” with protocol as she campaigns for Prime Minister.

But she’s still content to scrap an internationally agreed deal. Nor does she claim that the majority in the North is against it. About 50 percent in the north support it, 40 percent oppose it. A basic familiarity with how things work is vital when they break.

Such a starting point should not be over-hoped for by any potential winner. The stakes are high for Ireland in the battle for Tory leadership

Fry Electronics Team

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