Northern Ireland news

Lord Empey: Sir Jeffrey has 'made his point' and should return DUP to Executive

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson speaking to the media earlier this month

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has "made his point" and must get his party to re-enter the executive to deal with serious budget issues, Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey has said.

The peer said Sir Jeffrey's claim that he did not think issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol will be resolved before May’s elections was an "amazing statement" given that the DUP's Paul Givan resigned as first minister over problems with the protocol.

The protocol, agreed by the UK and EU as part of the Brexit withdrawal deal, has effectively created a border in the Irish Sea with checks on goods coming from Britain to Northern Ireland.

Lord Empey,who led the UUP between 2005 and 2010, said little had changed with regard to the protocol and checks were continuing since Mr Givan's resignation earlier this month.

"The only thing that has changed is that the people of Northern Ireland are going to miss out on major opportunities, particularly over health services because the budget cannot be agreed," he said.

"Police numbers are likely to start dropping as well and we have seen the £36 million destined for football here put on the back burner once again.

“Sir Jeffrey has made his point, but he should now take the opportunity to go back into the Executive, deal with the budget, deal with the resources for our struggling health service, deal with local football and deal with the massive financial hole in policing and ensure that the victims of Historical Institutional abuse get the dignified apology they deserve."

Lord Empey said a DUP return to government "would be a more constructive use of the institutions instead of facing possibly a very long time before we have a functioning executive".

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