Shadow Secretary of State Owen Paterson has reacted with annoyance to Labour attacks on the Tories' involvement in Northern Ireland politics.
His exasperation is understandable. The current Government took Britain to war in order to impose its favoured system of government on distant parts of the globe.
Yet Labour implies that the Conservatives have overstepped their mark by expressing an opinion on the system of devolution employed in a region of the United Kingdom.
Admittedly, the Hatfield House talks, hosted by Conservatives and purportedly touching upon the controversial topic of 'unionist unity', contributed to the current wave of anxiety. Particularly as they foreshadowed the umpteenth crisis at Stormont and yet another intervention in the 'peace process' by the Prime Minister.
The UK Government certainly needs to stand above zero-sum, cultural tugs-o'-war which attend issues like parading and the Irish language. However, to argue that it should not be permitted to select our representatives as ministers, or promote Northern Ireland's place within the Union, is dangerous humbug.
The constitutional preference of a clear majority here remains membership of the United Kingdom and, unless that status is accompanied by political entitlements, taken for granted in the rest of Britain, then people in Northern Ireland are effectively being condemned to a form of second class citizenship.
To contend that power-sharing is too fragile to permit voters to choose their national government makes a nonsense of the principle of consent, which is supposed to underpin the Belfast Agreement. Whatever we might mean when we refer to the 'peace process' it is surely not supposed to prevent us playing a full role at Westminster.
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