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18 July 2016

Progress will be fine if those interested in island's future work together for best terms

Sinn Fein should act like a grown-up and deal with reality of Brexit constructively, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ex-Secretary of State Theresa Villiers was criticised by republicans
Ex-Secretary of State Theresa Villiers was criticised by republicans

Theresa Villiers will be no loss - all British Secretary of States should stay over there - that was a tweet last week from Martina Anderson, one-time convict and now an MEP, thus once again showing herself to be a member of the ungracious Adams wing of Sinn Fein.

Say what you like about Martin McGuinness, and I've said plenty, he makes a point of trying to be courteous with political opponents.

Adams and his ilk prefer insults. Unionists, as might be expected, said some nice things about Ms Villiers and wished her well: I welcome the fact that many fewer of them these days confuse rudeness with principle.

Charlie Flanagan, the Irish Foreign Minister, thanked Ms Villiers for her "effort and commitment" and "positive contribution".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood was gracious, too, recognising her as "a hard working Secretary of State, albeit one with whom I've had my fair share of disagreements" and sending her good wishes.

Ms Villiers is often denounced for blocking access to Downing Street, but she was conscientiously carrying out Government policy.

From the beginning of his Prime Ministership David Cameron treated Northern Irish politicians as he treated those of Scotland and Wales.

It was made clear that whinging about threats to the peace process would no longer win them special access to Downing Street.

Their job was to get on with making devolution work.

Sinn Fein has been furious about this.

It's now in a lather of indignation about Brexit and is claiming Northern Ireland has a democratic right to stay in the EU.

That the vote in Northern Ireland was 56% against means, according to another of Ms Anderson's pronouncements, that by being in favour of Brexit Ms Villiers "was totally at odds with the people of the North".

I find this hilarious from a party that was consistently anti-EU until its complete U-turn over this referendum.

Only last year Ms Anderson was complaining about "anti-democratic actions of the ECB, IMF, and the European Commission".

It is exactly because we consider the EU undemocratic, Ms Anderson, that so many of us voted to leave and believe that in consequence the United Kingdom will ultimately be a better, happier place.

There's even a good chance that Brexit will force EU reforms which are in the interests of all its members.

Adams' deluded response to not getting his own way has been to demand in a New York Times article that there be a referendum on a united Ireland and that America's leaders act to "safeguard the political progress" in Northern Ireland.

We are where we are and political progress will be fine if those concerned with Ireland work together with goodwill to make the best deal possible.

Frances Fitzgerald, the Irish Minister for Justice, who has worked closely with Theresa May, sent out a very positive signal when she spoke of her "as a person of great integrity and ability".

Mrs May is a woman who says what she means.

She has said that she believes "with all my heart in the United Kingdom: the precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland".

Further, she believes "in a union, not just between the nations of the United Kingdom, but between all of our citizens". In appointing James Brokenshire, who has worked for her for years, she has chosen someone for whom she has the highest regard.

Having been in charge of national security, he knows what he's talking about when he says uncompromisingly that he wants a soft border and thinks it attainable.

David Davis, who is in charge of achieving Brexit, has assured the three devolved administrations of the UK that there will be full consultation before the British Government opens formal negotiations with the EU. The same, Boris Johnson has promised, will apply to Gibraltar.

The governments of both the UK and the Republic want to keep as much as possible of the special relationship between the two countries and there's much that Dublin and Belfast can do informally to work out joint solutions.

If Adams really cares about Ireland, it would help if he would urge followers like Anderson to behave like a grown-up and approach Brexit constructively.

Ruth Dudley Edwards’ The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic, was published by Oneworld Publications on March 22.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards