FORMER agriculture minister Edwin Poots was last night urged to explain what one Stormont rival described as a "reckless and irresponsible" order to halt Irish Sea border checks earlier this year.
The call came in the aftermath of damning High Court ruling which found the former DUP leader took an "overtly political" decision in February when he sought to withdraw staff tasked with carrying out checks in line with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
There was no response from Mr Poots or his party to the court ruling quashing the former minister's instruction.
The challenge to the legality of the order, which the then Lagan Valley MLA said was based on legal advice, was brought by a Sinn Féin member, another applicant named Edward Rooney, and Belfast City Council.
The former minister had contended that he needed the approval of fellow Stormont ministers to implement the checks. However, Mr Justice Colton found consent from ministerial colleagues was not required.
The court heard the decision to stop port checks came after Mr Poots was served with a pre-action letter by loyalist activist Jamie Bryson.
In the correspondence, Mr Bryson contended that an absence of executive authority meant the regulations do not require the inspections to be carried out.
Counsel for the unidentified Sinn Féin member described the activist’s intervention as an “ingenious construct” which had led to the current proceedings.
Sinn Féin's Declan Kearney said Mr Poots' actions were "clearly reckless and irresponsible and we now have confirmation that they were also unlawful".
“This court ruling also follows on from repeated threats by the Tory government to break international law," he said.
Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry welcomed the outcome of the case, adding that ministers have an obligation to implement the law "regardless of their own preferences".
"Adherence to the rule of law is vital to provide a stable business environment here," he said.
SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole called on Mr Poots to explain what he termed "crude legal game-playing".
"This is an embarrassment for Edwin Poots – not only is the implementation of the protocol a legal requirement but his own department had previously been clear that these were legal requirements," he said.
"There are clearly ways to smooth the operation of the protocol but clumsy stunts and lawbreaking is not the way to do it."