‘Reckless and irresponsible’ ‘This will hurt the people of Northern Ireland’ - Resignation of First Minister will have ‘real and serious consequences’
- Power-sharing function of North’s Executive put on hold
- We waited months and months and no progress on Protocol’ – Donaldson
- ‘Reckless and irresponsible’ – SF’s John Finucane
The resignation of First Minister Paul Givan is a “pointless action” that will have real and damaging consequences for the people of Northern Ireland, parties across the political spectrum in the North have said.
Power-sharing functions of the Stormont Executive have been put on hold following its leader’s resignation in protest at his party’s unhappiness with a lack of progress on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said he thought his party has been “very patient” waiting for a breakthrough in negotiations but said his party had promised to act if no progress occurred.
“I think we have been very patient. Back in September, I warned that unless we had real and decisive progress in addressing the problems created by the Protocol - bearing in mind that all parties accept that the Protocol is doing real harm to Northern Ireland, societal damage to Northern Ireland.
“We’ve waited for months and months and months and no progress has been made in the talks between the EU and the UK,” Mr Donaldson told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
Mr Donaldson said he had warned Liz Truss that the DUP needed to see real progress in the talks by the end of January but this has not occurred.
In a meeting last week, Boris Johnson told Mr Donaldson that the likelihood of an agreement being reached in talks was just “20-30pc”. The DUP leader then asked Mr Johnson if he was prepared to act unilaterally in the absence of an agreement with the EU but said, “I got no such commitments”.
“January 31 has come and gone - no progress has been made. Therefore, I have acted on what I said I would do back last September.
“The EU, and the Irish government in particular, have argued that the main purpose of the Protocol was to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the political institutions. Despite that, the EU has completely ignored the fact that no elected Unionist representative in Northern Ireland supports the Protocol.
“There is no Unionist support for the Protocol and that cuts right through the heart of consent and consensus, which is right at the centre of the Good Friday Agreement,” Mr Donaldson said, adding the DUP could not implement a Protocol it does not agree with, “has no say in and which drives a border through the United Kingdom”.
Mr Donaldson said that despite there being no First Minister and Deputy First Minister, all other cabinet ministers remain in place and things like hospital waiting lists should not suffer as a result of the resignation of Paul Givan.
Doug Beattie, UUP leader, said that Health Minister Robin Swann, has been placed in an awkward position by the DUP’s move and he is currently to navigate the “legal confines” of what can be achieved without an Executive to refer back to.
Mr Beattie said removing the First Minister “was a pointless action that will hurt the people of Northern Ireland” despite his party sharing the DUP’s concerns with the Protocol.
Sinn Féin MP John Finucane said the “reckless and irresponsible move” by the DUP will have “real and serious” consequences for the people of Northern Ireland. Mr Finucane said people like Robin Swann have been “left a huge mess” as he tries to figure out if he can review coronavirus restrictions which were due to be looked at next week.
Former Deputy First Minister and leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland has called all parties except for the DUP to a meeting today to “see what can be salvaged”, Mr Finucane said.
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