SO MANY are the riders, the Tory leadership race is already cast as a steeplechase. The field will be thinned out as we go, but so much is riding on the eventual winner.
This being July 12 – joyous to loyalists, but full of foreboding for nationalists – it is worth remembering what is at stake.
Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it. And just how badly we have been coping has been evident since Brexit.
Boris Johnson’s crowning glory was the fact that he “got Brexit done”. But, sadly, so much was also undone.
A messy exit from the EU tore a gaping hole in the trusted trade and rules-based systems. No need now to rehash the vertiginous steps that lead up to the “protocol”.
Mr Johnson proved not much interested in serving anything other than his own purpose.
The political nuances of the North – intricacies of difference respecting time and tradition, so delicately woven into the fabric of the Good Friday Agreement – had to be handled with care and respect.
Unfortunately, in the rude haste to get to the escape exits, all were trampled on.
Therefore, superficial upbeat talk about jettisoning the protocol, and tearing up the trade agreement with the EU to restore harmony for the greater good, is not just bogus, but dangerously foolhardy.
Mr Johnson’s approach was always to dismissively downplay the complex problems of Anglo-Irish relations. But there is no escaping the reality that dumping the protocol may well mean bringing back some kind of border.
It would be disingenuous for any new occupant of No 10 Downing Street to deny this. That is why Dublin and Brussels are hoping the new Conservative leader will be more open to resetting relationships. We need better ties with the UK which all sides can profit by. A sounder footing is only possible through a more grounded understanding.
The Good Friday Agreement was born out of the silence and better counsel of those who held their tongues and listened.
Since Brexit, the rhetoric has been polarising, casting a permafrost over links which had been close.
There has been no serious intent in finding a resolution track, never mind building one.
The collapse of Stormont, and the refusal of the DUP to play any part in restoring it, speaks for itself.
Players have been elevating the drama to symphonic, if not operatic levels.
Liz Truss has vowed to “fix problems” with the protocol in her campaign to be prime minister.
But she is still at ease with scrapping an internationally agreed deal. Nor does her claim hold that the majority in the North oppose it. Some 50pc in the North back it, with 40pc against. A basic familiarity with how things work, to begin with, is vital when they break.
Such a starting point ought not be too much to hope for from any prospective winner.