Northern Ireland

DUP to string out Stormont boycott as Donaldson warns protocol bill could 'take months' to pass

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by Hugh Russell
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE DUP looks set to string out its Stormont boycott indefinitely after Sir Jeffrey Donaldson signalled that his party has no timetable for the restoration of the devolved institutions.

His remarks came 24 hours after the British government published legislation that could see it unilaterally ditch parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The controversial bill has been widely criticised, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin describing it as "an assault on an international agreement".

The Fianna Fáil leader said the legislation was "anti-business and anti-industry", while Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill accused Downing Street of "pandering" to the DUP .

The chair of the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez said the bill was "irresponsible" and a threat to peace in Ireland.

The legislation was tabled on Monday by the Tories in the hope that it would prompt the DUP to end its boycott of the executive and the assembly.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss urged Sir Jeffrey to move to restore the Stormont institutions "as soon as possible".

But the DUP leader said his party wanted to see the bill progressing through Westminster.

He said the legislation had the potential to resolve his concerns over the protocol but that it could "take months" for it to become law.

"There's a long way to go with this legislation," Sir Jeffrey said.

"It will take months to pass through the Commons and the Lords unless the government decides to escalate the timetable for the bill, and we haven't heard that."

He said the DUP had "not yet come to a view as to when the institutions might be restored" and that he wanted to be sure the bill was "moving forward" and that it would be enacted.

Ms O'Neill warned that the legislation would create economic uncertainty.

"The reality is that the actions of Boris Johnson, the actions to unilaterally disapply parts of the protocol, will have a negative impact on businesses," she said.

"It creates more uncertainty so that is not in the best interests of the people here, it is certainly not in the best interests of the business community here."

The taoiseach told the Dáil that the British government's unilateral action could "destabilise" politics in the north.

"I want to say fundamentally, and it is with regret I say this, I do get the sense the current British government don't fully get the Good Friday Agreement or don't understand the DNA of the Good Friday Agreement and what it really means in terms of the involvement and the co-guarantor nature of it between the British and Irish government," he said.