Northern Ireland news

DUP and Sinn Féin clash over Theresa May's decision to participate in air strikes in Syria

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has said prime minister Theresa May had the "full authority" to approve strikes in Syria. Picture by Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
John Monaghan

THE DUP and Sinn Féin have clashed over prime minister Theresa May's decision to participate in air strikes in Syria.

The UK, US and France launched joint strikes on three Syrian government sites near Damascus and Homs on Saturday. The western allies said they were targeting chemical weapons facilities.

The missiles were in response to an alleged chemical attack carried out by the regime of Bashar al-Assad on the town of Douma the previous weekend which is believed to have killed at least 70 people.

Mrs May has faced criticism from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and both her own and opposition MPs for making the decision without consulting parliament.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds - whose party is in a confidence and supply agreement to prop up Mrs May's Conservative government - said that the prime minister had the "full authority" to act.

"The prime minister has the full authority, on the basis of all the information at her disposal, to order the type of military action which has been carried out and we reject any suggestion that she was not entitled to do so," said the North Belfast MP.

"We are reassured that the military action is strictly targeted and limited in its purpose. Also that it is not about a wider intervention in the Syrian civil war which would, in our view, be counter productive."

Sinn Féin TD and foreign affairs spokesman Seán Crowe said he was "saddened and appalled" at the air strikes and added Ireland could play a role in promoting dialogue in Syria.

"I condemn the airstrikes in Syria in the strongest terms possible. The US, Britain and France are not neutral, having armed and supported various protagonists," he said.

"They have no credibility when it comes to peaceful settlements to conflicts in this region. They need to desist from their military interventionism.

"The Irish government also needs to increase its humanitarian response by supporting the Syrian people and by reaching its own targets for the resettlement and relocation of Syrian refugees to Ireland."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said policy on Syria should be approved by MPs, not "through a solo run by Theresa May or dictated by any US President".

He said: "The violence and bloodshed that is happening in Syria is horrific. Any military intervention threatens to escalate the conflict even further.

"International cooperation is required to help end Assad's brutal regime and deliver a strategy for peace in Syria."

Before the attacks were launched, Ulster Unionist and Alliance MLAs also called for parliament to be consulted.

US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that President Trump has warned that America is "locked and loaded" if there is further use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Mrs May has not ruled out fresh action.

She said: "We know that the Syrian regime has an utterly abhorrent record of using chemical weapons against its own people.

"This was not about interfering in a civil war. And it was not about regime change.

"It was a limited, targeted and effective strike with clear boundaries that expressly sought to avoid escalation and did everything possible to prevent civilian casualties."

The attacks have been condemned by the Syrian government and its allies Iran and Russia.

Russia lost its bid to secure a resolution at the emergency UN Security Council meeting condemning the "aggression" in Syria.

The Irish government has not yet made an official statement on the strikes.

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