Northern Ireland news

Stormont may not return if it collapses this time, SDLP and UUP warn

 SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MP in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings at Stormont in Belfast.
David Young, PA

Devolution may never return to Northern Ireland if powersharing collapses again, the SDLP and UUP have warned.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood accused the DUP and Sinn Féin of turning Stormont into a “soap opera” amid the latest stand over the renomination of the first and deputy first ministers.

“I fear if this place comes down this time, it won’t come back,” Mr Eastwood told a Stormont press conference.

“Does anybody really want Boris Johnson dealing with our health crisis? Does anybody think Matt Hancock is the right man to sort out the issues in Northern Ireland? I for one don’t.

“And it’s about time these two parties stopped thinking about themselves and looking after their own interests and started thinking about the public out there. People are sick of it.

“We’re still going through a pandemic and waiting lists are out of control. What are they going to do about it? Stop all the messing, nominate a first minister and a deputy first minister and let’s get on with delivering all of those things in NDNA (New Decade, New Approach) and all the other things that people want us to deal with.”

Also addressing reporters in Parliament Buildings, UUP leader Doug Beattie said he feared some politicians wanted the institutions to fall and the return of direct rule from London.

“I don’t think it’s something that people should be wishing for,” he said.

“Because once Stormont collapses, it’s going to be incredibly hard to get it back up and running again, if we ever will do.”

Mr Beattie urged the DUP and Sinn Féin to show maturity and reach an agreement.

He highlighted that the next phase of Covid-19 relaxations in Northern Ireland will not be able to be signed off by the Executive as scheduled on Thursday June 17 if nominations do not happen before then.

“If they have to lock themselves in a room, close the doors, and thrash this out until they get a solution, then that is exactly what they have to do for all of the people here,” said Mr Beattie.

“I suppose it’s like everything here in northern politics – for some reason, there always has to be a winner and there always has to be a loser.

“And what we’re saying is find the centre ground here, find something that we can all coalesce around and try and get this thing moving, so nobody has to just give without receiving here.”

Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry said there was an onus on all the Executive parties to publicly commit to implementing all outstanding aspects of the New Decade, New Approach deal.

“The standoff may be between DUP and Sinn Féin, but all five Executive parties should be making clear that expect NDNA commitments to be delivered in a timely manner,” he tweeted.

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said the impasse highlighted the “absurdity” of the powersharing structures.

He accused Sinn Féin of engaging in “ransom politics” and treating DUP leader Edwin Poots like a “small boy”.

“The ransom price for Edwin Poots is to give in on their preposterous Irish language demands,” he told reporters at Stormont.

“So it’s a test of Edwin Poots. Is he going to be not just spoken to as a small boy by Sinn Fein, but is he also going to do their bidding? That’s the test for him.”

Read more: Political rivals praise Arlene Foster's ‘utmost dignity'

 UUP leader Doug Beattie MLA in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings at Stormont in Belfast.

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