THE attempted killing of DCI John Caldwell has produced disgust from all the political parties here. An attempt to shoot dead a man in front of his young son pushes at the borders of barbarity and every bullet fired pushes back the day of a border poll.

But if condemnation of such actions is considered important (although personally I’ve never quite understood what purpose condemnation serves), then shouldn’t the shooting dead of Aidan McAnespie in 1988  – to take one example  – have been been met with similar disgust? A 23-year-old shot in the back on his way to a football match? Ah, no. The ‘security’ forces must always receive the support of unionism then and now, regardless. 

Back at what passes for politics, the DUP have once again lined up with Boris Johnson and the right-wing European Research Group (ERG) in the hope this will  save them from a fate worse than death: being forced back into the Executive in Stormont with First Minister Michelle O’Neill. ‘Put not your trust in princes,’ the Bible tells us. For a party with more than its share of Bible-thumpers, the DUP seem to have missed that verse from the Good Book. Like an abused partner they insist on standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the people who have betrayed them.

The DUP, of course, would claim to be more savvy this time round. If they smell a rat in the package being offered by Rishi Sunak – if it doesn’t meet their seven tests  – there will be no resurrection of Stormont. Jamie Bryson (who got 167 votes when he ran for office) was on TV last week making it clear that no EU law would be permitted in NEI. If he’s right they may pull down the Stormont shutters and nail them in place. Unionists may lament the loss of the building on the hill, but at some level many nationalists will feel a sense of relief.  Approach the main building in Stormont, or even the Stormont grounds, and you’ll see why they might: the place reeks of unionist entitlement, the building roars “No surrender!” 

Although it may not come to a Stormont permanent collapse. It’s possible there are unionist politicians who, after weighing up the options, decide that the choice between becoming second best and becoming totally irrelevant is an easy enough choice after all. 

Besides, who knows? In the future something may turn up. An election in a year’s time might see unionists voters rally to the cause, the Prod in the garden centre may come galloping to the aid of the union and leave Paul ‘No Gaeltacht Bursaries’ Givan, not Michelle O’Neill, taking the First Minister role.

So let’s suppose the DUP won the next election and returned to the top spot at the political table – what then?  Well, then the croppies will be forced to lie down again, won’t they? 

Mmm,  maybe not. Long-term, there is only one course that will save unionism’s skin: If it abandons tradition and treats nationalism with genuine respect and a welcome place in a new NEI. 

Except that won’t happen. If unionism is spooked by the thought of a republican First Minister, how much more nightmare-like would be an NEI in which republicans were respected and occupied all sorts of high-profile positions throughout the stateen?

Once, as the Beatles sang, there was a way back homeward. Not for Jeffrey and co there isn’t. The EU may have let Sunak put lipstick on the Protocol pig, but it’s still a porker. 

Resist the temptation to throw a hissy-fit, Jeffrey. The British people have had enough.