Northern Ireland news

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says Richard Neal visit 'undiplomatic'

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson pictured speaking to the media at Stormont today. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire 

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has described the visit of a US delegation led by Congressman Richard Neal as the "most undiplomatic" he has ever seen.

Speaking after meeting the delegation, he said they had "been left in no doubt whatsoever the strength of feeling amongst unionists about this visit".

"It has been the most undiplomatic visit I have ever seen to these shores, the language if I may be diplomatic myself, it has been unhelpful, and it displays an alarming ignorance of the concerns of unionism, and I can assure you that our words today to the delegation were not manufactured, nor are the legitimate and genuine concerns that we represent and that are shared by all unionists," he told media at Stormont.

"We reminded the delegation that not a single unionist elected to this Assembly supports the protocol, that powersharing only works on the basis of a cross-community consensus and that that consensus does not currently exist.

"What we need now are solutions. What we do not need are people telling us that we must fully implement a protocol that is harmful to Northern Ireland, and if it were fully implemented would present what I regard as an economic tsunami for this place."

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson described a Sinn Féin recall petition for an Assembly sitting to elect a speaker as a "stunt".

"When you consider that for three long years, and on a number of occasions during that period when this Assembly was recalled to elect a speaker, that Sinn Fein on each occasion absented themselves from those proceedings," he said.

"Most people out there will take with a pinch of salt Sinn Féin's new-found determination to restore working institutions that they abandoned for three years.

"And if they think that pulling a stunt like this next Monday is going to change things then they really don't understand unionism and our determination to stand our ground until we get the decisive action that is required to move us all forward."

Making reference to Congressman Neal's use of the term "planter" in relation to unionists in Northern Ireland, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said his DUP colleague Jonathan Buckley told the American politician that "he himself is a planter".

"Then I took the opportunity to remind him of a few facts of American history. I reminded him of an event in 1773 when a group of American patriots pushed tea chests into the harbour at Boston, and their mantra on that occasion was no taxation without representation and they fought a revolutionary war based upon that principle," he said.

"And I reminded Congressman Neal and his colleagues that this too is our mantra: that today Northern Ireland is subjected to laws and taxes into which it has no say, that not a single member elected to this Assembly can influence many of the laws that now oversee how we conduct trade in our country because they are imposed by the European Union, and there is no democratic accountability to this institution or any democratic institution in this country.

"So I reminded Congressman Neal that the principle of no taxation without representation applies to Northern Ireland and we need to sort that out and until we sort it out and see the solution being put in place we cannot make the progress that we want to see."

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