Northern Ireland

DUP leader urged to apologise for heart op delay claims

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by David Young/PA Wire
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by David Young/PA Wire DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by David Young/PA Wire

SIR JEFFREY Donaldson is coming under growing pressure to apologise for uncorroborated claims about the impact of the protocol on healthcare provision.

The DUP leader has faced widespread criticism for claiming that the post-Brexit trade arrangements led to the cancellation of life-saving heart surgery and "impaired" the supply of medicines.

He initially said the heart surgery issue was in relation to the Belfast health trust but after it responded by saying there was "no substance" to the claim, Sir Jeffrey said the delay occurred in the Southern trust. However, the Southern trust too disputed what the DUP leader said. The trust acknowledged that heart surgery appointments were suspended in August while equipment was sourced in Germany but its statement indicated that the protocol had played no part in the delays.

The Department of Health said shortages of medicines “can occur from time to time for reasons unconnected to EU exit or the NI Protocol”.

Sir Jeffrey last night told The Irish News that he was "still engaging with the trust" but did not offer any further information to substantiate his claim about delays in heart surgery. The Lagan Valley MP has also faced criticism over claims about intimidation of unionist students at Queen's University. Queen's and and the PSNI have said they had no knowledge of any incidents. Sir Jeffrey made the claims in a tweet last week.

He said "universities should be above partisan politics", before stating that Queen's Democratic Unionist Association had "recently reported on some very worrying cases of intimidation against unionist students".

The DUP leader said last night that there had been no incidents of intimidation in the current term and that the university had "dealt with those cases I brought to them".

He said the incidents included "people in the proximity" of a university unionist society meeting "pushing Sinn Féin posters up onto windows" and "shouting slogans that were designed to intimidate".

"I've also had examples of individual students who have been subjected to sectarian abuse," Sir Jeffrey said.

"But as I've said, the university has dealt with the issues that I've brought to them before and I'm continuing to work with the university in dealing with those issues."

Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond said it would be appropriate for the DUP leader to "issue an apology and clarification" around his claims about the protocol.

"There’s no need therefore to add misinformation into an already complex and emotive debate where the majority just want to see the impacts of Brexit minimised," he said.

“Sir Jeffrey’s response to a valid question was political and ultimately false."

SDLP health spokesperson Colin McGrath said the DUP leader's claims were so far "unsubstantiated".

"Unless Jeffrey Donaldson can produce concrete evidence to back up the claims he has made in recent weeks then I believe he needs to hold his hands up, admit he was wrong and withdraw these unhelpful comments before any more damage is done," the South Down representative said.