Stormont economy minister denies ‘political stunts' on north/south co-operation
Stormont Economy Minister Diane Dodds has denied “political stunts” over her party’s refusal to engage with the Republic of Ireland over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The DUP said it wants to send a “strong signal” to the Irish Government by stopping north-south activities related to the protocol.
The plan was announced amid what the party has termed the “growing crisis” over post-Brexit arrangements.
Unionists in Northern Ireland say the additional checks on goods have driven an economic wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, creating a border in the Irish Sea.
Mrs Dodds said she has “made clear that at all times she will act in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland and our local economy”.
“We have indicated to our own Government that they need to act, but we also need to send a message to the Government of the Irish Republic that north/south relationships are also impacted by the implementation of a protocol for which they are cheerleaders and which does real damage to the agreements they purport to uphold, along with the real damage it does to our businesses, consumers and communities here in Northern Ireland,” she told MLAs.
“We can and we will not continue to act as though relationships have not been impacted by their actions. We will consider each matter on its merits, not doing anything of course that negatively impacts on Northern Ireland, but it cannot be business as usual for north/south relations because of the issues that flow from the protocol.”
There was a sharp exchange over the approach between Mrs Dodds and Sinn Fein MLA Caoimhe Archibald in the Assembly on Tuesday.
Ms Archibald accused the minister of “engaging in silly political stunts”.
Mrs Dodds rejected this, hitting back: “I am not in the position of stunts and if I was I need only to look at the party opposite … if there are stunts in this house this party has the monopoly on them.”
Alliance MLA Andrew Muir put to Mrs Dodds that she is “turning her back on reality, north/south co-operation and economic success”.
Mrs Dodds said she is currently working on future interventions for the Northern Ireland economy.
“Lets be absolutely clear – our biggest market is GB, we sell more into the Great Britain market then we do into the Republic of Ireland, the rest of the EU and the rest of the world put together,” she said.
“It is absolutely imperative that we fix the fissure that has now developed in the United Kingdom’s internal market so that we can help Northern Ireland to progress.”
DUP MLA Christopher Stalford told the Stormont Assembly that it is “bizarre” to be in a situation where political parties are “defending arrangements that will impose additional costs on families and firms”.
“What we’re dealing with here is a group of Belfast masochists defending Brussels sadists,” he said.