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File photo Leah Farrell/
NI Protocol

Sinn Féin leaders accuse Westminster of being 'reckless' with peace in Northern Ireland

Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill have met with the EU’s Brexit negotiator to urge the bloc to uphold the Good Friday Agreement.

LAST UPDATE | 1 Jun 2022

SINN FÉIN LEADERSHIP has accused UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson of being “reckless” with peace in Northern Ireland on a visit to Brussels to defend the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The party’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said today that she believed the Good Friday Agreement was “under attack” by the Conservative government in Westminster.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio today, O’Neill refuted claims that the protocol undermined the agreement: “The protocol, in its essence, is about protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

“The people of the north didn’t vote for Brexit. So it’s been foisted upon us, but we found some mitigation in the form of the protocol.”

O’Neill, who is poised to take up the first minister post in Northern Ireland after last month’s election, was in Brussels with Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald to defend the protocol.

They met with the EU’s Brexit negotiator European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic to express their support for the bloc and Britain resolving problems over Northern Ireland within the protocol’s framework.

O’Neill repeated Sinn Féin’s criticism of unilateral action from Westminster to override the protocol, saying: “We actually find ways to make the protocol work because it is here to stay.

“The British government’s approach of unilateral action is reckless and it’s causing chaos and causing political instability in the north and that’s not good enough for the people that have just voted for politics to work.”

Earlier today, McDonald told a media conference it was “unacceptable” that Johnson’s government was looking to unilaterally walk away from parts of the Protocol in the Brexit treaty.

“Boris Johnson must, and the British government must, come off this very, very destructive path because they put in peril, they put in jeopardy, the peace and the Good Friday Agreement settlement that we have all built so painstakingly over decades,” she said.

The UK and Brussels are in deadlock over the protocol, which was struck to uphold the peace gained from the Good Friday Agreement.

It created a customs border down the Irish Sea, keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs orbit so to avoid a hard border with the Republic.

While both sides acknowledge there are problems in implementing the deal, they are split on how to resolve them.

The EU says the mechanisms in the protocol permit fine-tuning on issues such as animal and plant checks and supermarket supplies.

But the UK, backing Northern Ireland unionists, wants the protocol fundamentally rewritten and is threatening to disapply parts of it if the EU does not bend.

“They are cynically using the people of the North in their game of chicken with the European Commission,” McDonald said.

“Boris Johnson needs to get real and needs to engage in good faith and negotiations,” she said.

She stressed that most members of the incoming Northern Ireland Assembly backed the Protocol, and that under it, the North is economically outperforming the rest of the United Kingdom.

She railed against the DUP for hobbling the Assembly by refusing to nominate ministers.

“The British government’s role in terms of propping up the DUP and facilitating this behaviour isn’t acceptable,” McDonald said, urging that a Northern Ireland Executive be formed “immediately”.

© AFP 2022

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