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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald speaking in Australia PA
australia trip

Ireland cannot be 'bargaining chip' in UK negotiations with EU, says McDonald

McDonald said that Boris Johnson’s interactions with Ireland were “wholly negative”.

IRELAND CANNOT BE a bargaining chip in the British Government’s Brexit “power play” or in its negotiating stance with Brussels, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

Speaking yesterday during her trip to Australia, McDonald described the outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s interactions with Ireland as “wholly negative” and his stance as “really dangerous”.

McDonald said Johnson had been involved in “the deliberate and reckless intent to break international law” in regards to the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.

Speaking to The Journal last night at a dinner event hosted by the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce and the Trinity College alumni, she said: “I would like to see a new British prime minister actually adopt practices of operating in good faith. It’s the only way forward.”

When asked who she would want to see take up the position in September – Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss – McDonald laughed and dismissed the question.

“That’s a matter for the Tory grassroots and I could assure you they’re not looking for my advice on that subject.”

“We need to a change of direction,” she added. “The Tory party and whomever is in Number 10 Downing Street needs to understand Ireland can’t be a bargaining chip in their power plays or in in their negotiating stance with Brussels. They’ve been wholly unreasonable in how they have conducted themselves.”

While Sunak managed to garner more votes in the contest among MPs, he is currently behind Truss in support among the Tory membership.

In the immediate aftermath of Johnson’s resignation, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said a new leader of the Tory Party would present an “opportunity” to reset the partnership between Ireland and the UK.

However, with Truss as the favourite, this looks less likely due to her bringing forward legislation to override most of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Asked whether she was actively seeking Australia’s newly-elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to lobby the next British Prime Minister for a border poll in Ireland, she said:

Everybody internationally and everybody who has celebrated and contributed to Ireland’s progress to our peace process will see and understand that, as we marked the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, we move logically to the next phase of the process which is the question of the border and the issue of referendums as provided for in the Good Friday Agreement.

“Democrats everywhere should support the ending of division and the reunification of Ireland including political leaders such as [Australia’s] new Prime Minister, Mr Albanese,” added McDonald.

The Sinn Féin leader is in Australia as part of a national tour which includes briefing Federal and State Government representatives about the changes she foresees for Ireland, particularly reunification.

During her trip she told audiences that within the decade there will be a referendum on Irish unity, saying that Ireland was in “the end of days of partition”.

“So we must prepare. Both governments have a responsibility to prepare. The Irish government in particular has a duty to change from bystanders into persuaders for unity. The people of Ireland are ready,” said McDonald.

While McDonald did not provide a date for any proposed referendum, she said that political change is beginning to manifest across all of Ireland.

McDonald has been on a whistlestop tour of Australia in recent days, visiting Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

During her time in Sydney, she was questioned about her attendance at a dinner event where a ‘Gold Table’ was on sale for €2,000 and whether or not that sent the wrong message.

McDonald brushed off the suggestion, saying that it was not a Sinn Féin event and that she had been invited by Trinity College alumni and the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce.

“I’ve been invited by the Trinity alumni and the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce. I’m delighted to be here in that capacity. It’s not my event. It’s their event and, as I think you can see from the people going in and out … they’re a very regular bunch of people.”

The Journal previously reported that a spokesperson for Sinn Féin said that the party “will not be receiving any income from the tour”.

“It is to engage with the Irish community in Australia, with political representatives and with businesses and trade unions on issues in Ireland; north and south,” the spokesperson said.

There had previously been criticism of McDonald attending, with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar saying that she would be “clinking” glasses with the Trinity alumni who are co-hosting the event.

Additional reporting by Tadgh McNally

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