Donaldson decision to withdraw First Minister a fundamentally flawed act of self-indulgence – Empey

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Donaldson decision to withdraw First Minister a fundamentally flawed act of self-indulgence – Empey

Ulster Unionist Peer Lord Empey said:

“At last Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has woken up to the fact that the Prime Minister isn't focused on doing the best for Northern Ireland. The pity is that he has come to that realisation over two years too late. It's not that long ago when he and his colleagues were clapping and cheering Boris Johnson and endorsing his plan to put a border in the Irish Sea.

“Now, he has collapsed the Executive on the basis that what Boris Johnson has done with the Protocol is bad for Northern Ireland. He seems to have forgotten that he was told this repeatedly in October 2019 when his party was propping up Boris Johnson's government. Indeed, between the 2nd and 17th of October that year, he argued against those of us in the Ulster Unionist Party who could see the trap into which Northern Ireland was being pushed, but instead of blocking what became the Protocol, he argued about the benefits that could be gained from it.

“As late as last autumn, Sir Jeffrey was emphasising the potential of the Protocol, with joint access to the UK and EU markets!

“Sinn Fein was rightly blamed by all unionists for collapsing Stormont in 2017. Sinn Fein doesn't like devolution at Stormont and played no part in negotiating it. That is why it is so hard to understand why some unionists, having attacked Sinn Fein for their actions in 2017, should choose to collapse the Executive now.

“One could argue that to do so as we are beginning to emerge from the pandemic and facing the worst cost of living crisis for a generation would be bad enough, but what the DUP is doing is providing ammunition for Sinn Fein to promote their narrative that Northern Ireland is ‘a failed political entity'. Sir Jeffrey has also provided them with leverage for negotiations leading to a return to the Institutions, if they even wish to come back. Just as the DUP had to pay the price of an Irish Language Act to get Stormont back in 2020, they will be asked to pay an even higher price next time.

“Why is this happening now? There is only one credible answer. It is a fundamentally flawed act of self-indulgence to try and save the DUP from being overwhelmed at the ballot box. Acting the 'tough guy' having brought most of this on themselves, is outrageous.

“We all make mistakes in politics, but recent actions by the DUP have been disastrous. Not thinking Brexit through properly as it applied to Northern Ireland was compounded by the endorsement of Boris Johnson's proposal for the Border in the Irish Sea and now they have decided to collapse the Executive in the middle of a crisis and give leverage to Sinn Fein. You couldn't make up this level of political stupidity.

“We all know unionists are angry out there, and we know the increased costs the Protocol is causing. But the way to resolve that is through negotiations and persuasion and putting forward alternatives. This is working. Those in Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance who wanted the Protocol 'fully implemented' have had to retreat from their positions, and the EU - however slowly - is beginning to realise that the Protocol cannot continue as it was negotiated. While both Brussels and London stress their commitment to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, so far all they have done is implement a one sided and unbalanced approach, undervaluing the views of unionists and damaging that very Agreement which they claim to want to protect.

“I believe that goods coming from GB to Northern Ireland for internal consumption will soon be able to come without expensive and cumbersome checks, and Sir Jeffrey knows that as well. Unionists should be working to see an amended Treaty between the EU and UK. All that has currently been mooted amounts to little more than mitigations, welcome though these are. But long-term significant divergence between regulations in Northern Ireland and Great Britain are inevitable without Treaty change and that would be extremely dangerous. That's where unionists and others should be concentrating their efforts and not wrecking the very Institution that our forefathers struggled so hard to create 100 years ago.”