Northern Ireland news

Resignation of First Minister ‘gross betrayal' of the people, claims SDLP

The SDLP's Colum Eastwood and Nichola Mallon said they have written to British prime minister Boris Johnson. Picture by Hugh Russell
Jonathan McCambridge and Rebecca Black, PA

The expected resignation of Paul Givan as First Minister is a “gross betrayal” of families across Northern Ireland, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said.

Mr Eastwood and deputy leader Nichola Mallon said they have written to British prime minister Boris Johnson following the latest threat to devolved government at Stormont.

Mr Eastwood MP said: “The actions of the DUP leadership represent a gross betrayal of people in Northern Ireland.

“Whatever community you’re from, whatever your background or beliefs, no-one benefits from this cynical, and totally predictable, electioneering stunt.

“Resigning from government when people are struggling to provide for their families, heat their homes and deal with the cost of living tells you all you need to know about the DUP – for them the party will always come first and ordinary people come last.

“People deserve better than a choice between bad government or no government.

“That has been the cycle of the last 15 years and it has delivered nothing but failure. It is time to break that cycle and offer people a different choice.”

Meanwhile, DUP MP Sammy Wilson rejected accusations of his party being engaged in a “political stunt” by stopping Brexit checks at Northern Ireland’s ports.

“That allegation was made again when we stopped the building of the posts, when we stopped the charges being imposed on vehicles, when we stopped the recruitment of further officials to carry out the checks,” he told the BBC.

“Although people call them political stunts, they haven’t challenged them and those decisions still stand and those decisions are still impacting on the ability of the protocol to be delivered.”

But Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd said the Stormont Executive has an agreed position in relation to the protocol and the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

“That is that under international and domestic law, they have to comply with it. That was agreed with the then DUP leader at an Executive meeting, Arlene Foster.

“Edwin (Poots) was present at that meeting, and indeed Edwin has stated on the floor of the Assembly that he had to comply with international law and domestic law,” Mr O’Dowd told the BBC.

“So what we’re seeing at the moment is a political stunt, a stunt to shore up the career of Edwin Poots and a stunt to shore up the DUP as they face an election.”

UUP MLA Steve Aiken said Northern Ireland is entering into a period of “further instability”.

He added: “What the effect is on actual checks is uncertain, although most of them remain despite DUP blustering.

“These actions do not stop all checks at our ports, nor do they rid us of the Irish Sea Border.

“We are still in the same negotiating position today as we were last week, and it will be through negotiation that the problems around the protocol will be fixed.

“No matter what, we are entering into a period of further instability just when we need to be focused on Covid recovery.

“We again call on the EU and UK Government to redouble efforts to sort out the debacle of the protocol now before the Belfast Agreement is irrevocably damaged.”

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