The bitter political medicine which Unionism needs to swallow is an extra large dose of cynicism when it comes to trusting Tory Ministers.
Granted, at first sight, it would appear that Westminster’s latest Miss Brexit, Liz Truss, seems determined to ‘out Frost’ Lord Frost - the former Brexit Minister - when it comes to delivering a political bloody nose to the European Union.
But a severe word of caution is needed for Unionism. Was it not Tory Prime Minister Ted Heath who axed the original Unionist-dominated Stormont Parliament in 1972?
Was it not Tory Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher who stabbed Unionism in the back by signing the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement which gave the Republic of Ireland its first major say in the running of Northern Ireland since partition in the 1920s?
Was it not Tory Prime Minister John Major who initiated the Downing Street Declaration, which heralded in the demise of the Royal Ulster Constabulary?
Was it not Tory David Cameron who supported the political shotgun marriage with the Ulster Unionist Party, which virtually wrecked the latter?
Was it not Tory Prime Minister Theresa May, who in spite of a confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP to keep her Government in power, supported an EU Withdrawal Agreement, which basically cut the political feet off Unionism?
And was it not underfire Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson - once the darling of the DUP conference - who made such a mess of Brexit that the EU was able to unleash the dreaded Protocol, which has been a Biblical-style millstone around the economic neck of Northern Ireland?
Now we find the DUP playing another high wire act with a leading Tory Minister. Is the DUP hoping Foreign Secretary Truss will politically neuter the Protocol so that Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and his team of DUP candidates can enter the expected May Stormont General Election claiming it was their idea to scupper the Protocol and save the Union?
Certainly, it is to Unionism’s clear advantage if Truss can even put a massive dent in the influence of the Protocol, especially if she shows ‘Iron Lady’-like courage by triggering Article 16 on the flow of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Okay, triggering Article 16 does not mean the Protocol is dead and buried, but its a start and could be the very action which guarantees the DUP retains its top spot, not just within Unionism, but also pips Sinn Fein into becoming the largest party in the Assembly, thereby laying claim to the First Minister’s position.
Likewise, while it was just a single opinion poll from Lucid Talk last year, it did at one time have the DUP lagging in third place within the pro-Union community behind both the Ulster Unionists and Jim Allister’s hardline Traditional Unionist Voice party. Clearly, too, that specific poll also had the DUP well behind Sinn Fein.
The real concern for Unionism is how much of Truss’s sabre-rattling against the Protocol is really her political pitch to beat Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak should Boris Johnson be forced to resign over the various ‘Partygate’ scandals?
Is Truss acting tough with the EU simply to win the support of the majority of MPs in the influential Tory backbench 1922 Committee, whilst at the same time courting the favour of the hardline Brexiteer European Research Group (ERG) of Tory MPs.
It should not be forgotten that Truss was originally a ‘Remainer’ in the 2016 referendum on EU membership before her political ‘Road to Damascus’ conversion to the Brexit cause.
What happens if Truss concludes she has enough support within the Tory faithful to win the leadership - without having to axe the Protocol? With the leadership - and ultimately Number 10 Downing Street’s keys - in the bag, will she sail a more moderate course with the EU and tell political Unionism - treat the Protocol like Covid, just live with it!
Unionism has always maintained the Protocol poses a serious threat to the peace process, and certainly Easter 2021’s rioting by loyalists was some of the most vicious since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
If Truss either cannot, or will not, politically castrate the Protocol, then Unionism will have to re-negotiate the Good Friday Agreement to compensate for any further constitutional pitfalls which the Protocol unveils.
Unionism should already now be working on a Plan B - irrespective of what fate befalls the Protocol - to make significant changes to both the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the 2006 St Andrews Agreement.
In their day, both Agreements worked at securing the peace process, but in 2022, they are no longer fit for purpose politically and require a radical overhaul, especially if a nightmare scenario for the pro-Union community emerges that it faces a Sinn Fein movement in power on both sides of the Irish border after the next Stormont and Dail General Elections.
It should not be forgotten what happened the last time Sinn Fein was in a significant position on the island of Ireland - namely the 1918 Westminster General Election when the movement notched up over 70 of the 105 Commons seats available.
The net result was the creation of Dail Eireann, the Anglo-Irish Treaty, a split Sinn Fein movement - and a bloody Irish Civil War in which more Anti-Treaty IRA men were executed by the Pro-Treaty Free State Army than were killed by the Black and Tans in the previous War of Independence against the British.
Put bluntly, if the opinion polls become an electoral reality and Sinn Fein becomes the largest republican movement in both Dublin’s Leinster House and Belfast’s Parliament Buildings, does it have the political maturity or workable policies to actually run an island?
Or, will the crazy outdated ideological Marxism of James Connolly’s Irish Socialist Republican Party return to haunt Sinn Fein?
Then again, maybe Sinn Fein victories in the Dail and Stormont are what are actually needed - Southern Sinn Fein will implode because it cannot deliver stable government in the republic and responsible constitutional nationalism will reign again, and in Northern Ireland, a Sinn Fein First Minister will actually achieve stable Unionist unity for the first time in decades. Every cloud has a silver lining, the old secular proverb says - to in this case, a potential red, white and blue lining.
Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter
Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online.