Northern Ireland news

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson calls on unionists and Irish government to end 'megaphone diplomacy'

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said the time for "megaphone diplomacy" between the party and the Irish government "is over". Picture by Cliff Donaldson
John Monaghan

A DUP MP has urged unionists and the Republic's government to put an end to "megaphone diplomacy".

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP MP for Lagan Valley and the party's chief whip, made the remarks in a series of Brexit-related tweets at the weekend.

Mr Donaldson said that "all of us" need to "show political maturity" following the defeat of the British government's Brexit deal in the House of Commons.

Prime Minister Theresa May is due to make a statement to parliament today to outline her next steps.

The DUP's 10 MPs voted the withdrawal agreement down due to opposition to the backstop proposal for the border.

Read More: MPs' rejection of Brexit deal heightens nationalist concern say conference organisers

The backstop, aimed at avoiding a return to a hard border, would be implemented in the absence of an alternative solution agreed as part of a wider trade deal.

It would see only Northern Ireland staying aligned to some EU rules, with extra checks on some goods coming into the north from Britain.

The DUP rejected this, saying it threatens the union by creating differences between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

In stark contrast the Irish government said it will not accept any Brexit deal which omits the backstop.

Read More: Mary Lou McDonald: British politicians have 'blatant disregard' for Ireland

Mr Donaldson tweeted: "Clear from vote... that concerns across the House (of Commons) re proposed backstop need addressed.

"This isn't just a matter for parliament but Dublin has key role to play to avoid hard border. Unionists ready to engage. Time for megaphone diplomacy on both sides is over."

The relationship between the Irish government and the DUP has been strained throughout the Brexit negotiations.

In December 2017 Tánaiste Simon Coveney said he was seeking a meeting with the DUP because there was "repair work to do" following public rows in the lead-up to the conclusion of the first phase of Brexit talks.

Read More: Ken Clarke slams Theresa May for spending time on 'sectarian Protestant' DUP

In May last year DUP MP Sammy Wilson accused Mr Coveney of being "belligerent, interfering and Brit bashing" after he dismissed suggestions technology could be used at the border after Brexit.

Mr Donaldson said that any solution "must respect the integrity of both the United Kingdom and EU but also the progress made in developing relationships on these islands".

"This is above all about future relationships and we need to show the political maturity that the challenge demands of us - all of us."

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald told the BBC the backstop is the "bare minimum" Ireland needs.

"The backstop is the bare minimum, it is the insurance policy. The idea of the backstop stop being watered down or diluted is unthinkable," she said.

"It must not be conceded by anyone especially the Irish government."

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