Northern Ireland

Rishi Sunak says he will examine report which calls for Northern Ireland to play greater defence role

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson thanked Rishi Sunak for his ‘dedication and leadership’ in helping to revive the political institutions at Stormont

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has refused to apologise for the ‘joke’
Prime Minister’s Questions Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during Prime Minister's Questions today. (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he will be happy to examine a new report which calls on Northern Ireland to play a greater role in the UK’s national security.

During an exchange at Prime Minister’s Questions, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson also thanked the Prime Minister for his “dedication and leadership” in helping to revive the political institutions at Stormont.

The powersharing Executive has returned after the DUP ended its two year boycott following a deal with the Government to address the unionist party’s concerns over post-Brexit trading arrangements, which included MPs supporting two pieces of legislation.

Sir Jeffrey said: “I want to thank the Prime Minister for his dedication and leadership in helping us to restore our place in the United Kingdom and its internal market, and to revive our political institutions at Stormont.

“The union is more secure as a result of our combined endeavours and together we have greatly enhanced the potential to build a strong and prosperous economy that will help to cement our peace in Northern Ireland.”

Sir Jeffrey added: “Securing peace in an unstable world is vital for all of us, and therefore will the Prime Minister examine the findings of a recent report by Policy Exchange that calls for Northern Ireland to play an even greater role in the defence of our nation?”

Mr Sunak paid tribute to Sir Jeffrey’s leadership over recent months.

He added: “He and I agree that the Union is stronger for the return of devolution and the work that we’ve done.”

He said he would be “delighted” to examine the findings of the report.

“I have seen, with my own visits, the vital role that Northern Ireland is playing through the location of firms like Thales and Harland and Wolff.

“I am delighted in last week’s command paper we specifically committed to examining how we can further bolster Northern Ireland’s share of the UK defence sector because it’s another essential pillar of our precious economic union.”

The Policy Exchange report this week said that Northern Ireland is key to addressing the UK’s security concerns.

The report called for the UK Government to expand its naval and air presence in Northern Ireland for “maritime patrol missions against Russian intrusion”.

It also urged the UK and its regional partners to unite and “up the ante” in pressing Dublin to do its “fair share for collective security”.