Northern Ireland

Gavin Robinson admits DUP ‘didn’t achieve everything’ in Stormont deal in TV leaders’ General Election debate

Party representatives gathered on Thursday for final local debate ahead of next week’s General Election

Colum Eastwood, Chris Hazzard, Naomi Long, Gavin Robinson and Robbie Butler taking part in Thursday evening's BBC NI Leaders' Debate.
Colum Eastwood, Chris Hazzard, Naomi Long, Gavin Robinson and Robbie Butler taking part in Thursday evening's BBC NI Leaders' Debate.

DUP leader Gavin Robinson has again defended his party’s collapse of the Assembly, but admitted “we didn’t achieve everything we set out to do” in the deal that restored Stormont.

Mr Robinson spoke during Thursday evening’s Northern Ireland Leaders’ Debate on BBC One NI.

The debate did not feature the leaders of Sinn Féin or the UUP, with the parties being represented by South Down Westminster candidate Chris Hazzard and Lagan Valley candidate Robbie Butler respectively.

Asked how they could regain the trust of voters after “years of political breakdown”, Mr Robinson insisted the DUP’s two-year boycott of Stormont was worth it.

He has previously been accused of overselling his party’s deal with the British government, which former leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson claimed effectively removed the Irish Sea border resulting from the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“I acknowledge we didn’t achieve everything we set out to, but significant and sufficient progress was there to see the restoration of devolution,” Mr Robinson said, adding progress “would never have been made without our stance”.

Meanwhile, Alliance leader Naomi Long insisted her party was in favour of a “united community” when told by presenter Tara Mills that at some point in the future she would have to “make up her mind” on the constitutional question.

“We are in favour of a united community in Northern Ireland. That is our priority policy,” she said.

“We cannot have a united Ireland or a United Kingdom while this place remains divided.

”We are open to those conversations. We are about trying to look at the practicalities.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood insisted it was “easier to get money out of Dublin...than it is at Stormont” in reference to the Republic’s Shared Island Fund.

“This place isn’t working, let’s be honest,” he said, adding that Northern Ireland was an “economic basket case”.

Robbie Butler said most people in the north “will not base their constitutional desires for the future on the economy”.

On the subject of health, Chris Hazzard said there was a recognition from the British government that Stormont had been underfunded and said a possible new Labour government meant there was “an onus now on all MPs and Executive colleagues to make sure we get that better deal so we can invest in our health service”.