On a recent visit to Linfield’s Windsor Park, Varadkar suggested that if Stormont could not be restored, then it was time to have conversations about a so-called Plan B.
There can be no doubting that Varadkar was hinting at some form of Joint Authority whereby Dublin and London would have an equal say in the running of Northern Ireland.
The prospect of Stormont returning as a fully functioning devolved Assembly and Executive ministers running their various departments is highly unlikely while the Windsor Framework exists in its current form.
If there’s no Stormont, then Direct Rule from Westminster or worse, Joint Authority with Dublin and London, seem to be the most talked about alternative arrangements.
Unionism can pull the carpet from under Varadkar’s feet by putting forward its own Plan B, one that was suggested in the past by the late UUP leader Jim Molyneaux.
Molyneaux was a committed integrationist who passionately believed that power in the United Kingdom should be centralised at Westminster.
He was supported in this view by the former UUP MP for South Down, the late Enoch Powell, another passionate integrationist.
During his time as Lagan Valley MP, UUP leader and senior Loyal Order officer, Molyneaux was a frequent visitor to my late parents’ home in North Antrim. Over meals, he would outline what became affectionately known in our family as the Molyneaux Model of government.
This model would see Northern Ireland governed from Westminster through the Northern Ireland Office, only instead of the then Direct Rule model of MPs from the Government parties flying in to run their portfolios, ministerial posts would be occupied by MPs elected in Northern Ireland who took their Commons seats.
The big criticism of Direct Rule after the original Stormont Parliament was prorogued in 1972 was that the MPs running the various NIO departments were not elected by Northern Ireland voters.
Occasionally, as in the mid 1980s, there was a Northern Ireland-born MP who held a post. For example, the late Brian Mawhinney, the Tory MP for Peterborough, was born in Northern Ireland and held the education portfolio at the NIO.
If the Westminster Government, of whatever political shade, cannot agree to Unionism’s radical and necessary changes to the Windsor Framework and Stormont collapses, then Unionists should demand the Molyneaux Model of Direct Rule from Westminster as the workable alternative.
Under the current mandate, that would mean DUP, SDLP and Alliance MPs running the Province via the NIO departments. This model keeps Dublin’s nose out of Northern Ireland affairs and places huge pressure on Sinn Fein.
Sinn Fein may crow it is the largest nationalist party in Northern Ireland, but its MPs still operate the republican movement’s outdated policy of abstentionism since Sinn Fein was formed in 1905, namely refusing to take seats in the House of Commons.
The IRA’s political wing takes its seats in all the other parliaments in which it has elected representatives - councils, the Dail, and the European Parliament - it even takes its seats in the Stormont Assembly.
Sinn Fein’s abstentionism becomes even more ridiculous given that Scottish and Welsh nationalist MPs and Labour MPs who support the republican cause take their Commons seats.
The Molyneaux Model could also solve many of the DUP’s internal problems about going back into an Assembly while the Windsor Framework was in place. The pressure then shifts from the DUP not restoring Stormont to Sinn Fein not taking its Commons seats.
In the 1980s, when Provisional Sinn Fein held a special conference to vote on taking seats in the Dail, the movement split with hardliners walking out to form the extremist Republican Sinn Fein party, the political wing of the dissident Continuity IRA terror gang.
If the republican movement’s ruling IRA army council allowed Sinn Fein to hold a special conference to vote on dropping the outdated Commons abstentionist policy, would such a vote in favour of taking Westminster seats spark a further split and see defections of grassroots Provisionals to the dissident republican movement?
Such a further split in republicanism could damage Sinn Fein’s chances of becoming the majority party in the next Dail general election in Southern Ireland.
Likewise, even though Sinn Fein has battered the moderate nationalist SDLP in recent Assembly and council elections, the latter still has a significant voice at Westminster simply because it takes its two Commons seats.
To many in the younger generation of modern day Unionism and loyalism, Molyneaux and Powell may simply be names in history books. But the Molyneaux Model of integrationist Direct Rule using Northern Ireland MPs may well be the Plan B which is urgently needed to get around the current Stormont impasse.
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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.