Tuesday, May 24, 2022

By David Young and Catherine Wylie, PA

The leader of Sinn Féin has accused Boris Johnson of using the Northern Ireland Protocol controversy to “distract” from his own domestic problems.

Mary Lou McDonald criticised the UK government’s approach to resolving issues with the post-Brexit trading arrangements during a visit to London to meet with a range of political representatives at Westminster.

Last week, UK foreign secretary Liz Truss announced an intent to table legislation at Westminster that would scrap parts of the protocol without the approval of the EU.

The government move came amid the ongoing power-sharing impasse at Stormont created by the DUP’s refusal to agree to form a new devolved executive following the recent Assembly election until the so-called Irish Sea border is removed.

Northern Ireland Troubles
Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill speaking to the media outside the Palace of Westminster in London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Ms McDonald, Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill and other senior party colleagues travelled to London on Tuesday for a round of engagements with MPs and peers.

The meetings came as the British prime minister continued to face calls for his resignation over the Downing Street lockdown parties furore.

“We’re making the case very strongly on the urgency of need to establish the executive,” Ms McDonald told reporters at Westminster.

“We’re now three weeks from the election and yet people still don’t have government (at Stormont).

“We’re very conscious that we’re living through a cost-of-living crisis, and it’s only going to get more acute as we head into the autumn and the winter.”

The republican leader criticised Mr Johnson’s bid to override the protocol he agreed with the EU.

“We’ve made the case very clearly that Boris Johnson needs to stop playing games, stop using Ireland as either a bargaining chip in this confrontation with the European system, or indeed as a distraction in his domestic affairs,” she said.

“We need good faith. We need Boris Johnson and his government to act honourably.

“Above all else, we need a very resolute international community that is determined to protect the progress of the Good Friday Agreement and peace in Ireland.”

Ms McDonald added: “We don’t believe that any political figure can be given anywhere to hide. We need the executive formed.

“This is a matter of urgency and the idea that anybody within the British system would give cover to the DUP to prevent the formation of a government for us is unacceptable, and we’re setting that out very, very clearly.”

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