Social Democratic and Labour Party Leader Colum Eastwood MP has said that the threat to devolution and the North-South institutions issued by Jeffrey Donaldson today serves no community in Northern Ireland and is based on selfish party political self-interest.
The Foyle MP called on the DUP Leader to reflect on the consequences of his statement and return to working with other political leaders to resolve the challenges we all face together.
Colum Eastwood MP said:
“People across Northern Ireland are sick of being held to ransom by political parties that put their own narrow self-interest above the interests of our communities and I do not believe that devolution could sustain another self-inflicted wound like this. Whether it’s the DUP or Sinn Féin, this behaviour has risked fatally damaging public confidence in politicians and the political process.
“The remarks made by the leader of the DUP this morning are disappointing, disproportionate and risk putting an end to devolution in Northern Ireland. I hoped that Jeffrey Donaldson’s leadership would be pragmatic, aimed at resolving the challenges that Brexit has created for all of our communities and acknowledging the need for compromise. Instead we have a return to the incendiary rhetoric and threats that got us nowhere for three of the last four years.
“I have listened to people from a unionist background who have concerns about the Northern Ireland protocol. Their fears are not about changes to trade routes or the availability of mince pies at Christmas. They are rooted in identity and while I may disagree, I believe those concerns are genuinely held and legitimate. This debate should not, therefore, be dressed up as a problem with reorienting supply chains. Those issues can be addressed with operational good will and political generosity.
“When people are divided, the only solution is agreement. There is no resolution to the challenges we face that can be achieved by throwing away the power that people invested in us to change their lives for the better. The only way to address these difficulties is for political leaders to set aside their ideological differences and work together in good faith to reach an agreement that meets the needs of the people we represent. If the politics of the last five years has taught us anything, it’s that making yourself powerless is a terrible negotiating tactic.
“Today’s change in tone and tact from the DUP follows another bad poll for the party. One party cannot be allowed to play Russian Roulette with devolution for the sake of their own political position. The DUP Leader must withdraw his threats, reflect on the consequences of bad faith with partners in government and work with everyone to find solutions to ensure devolution delivers for people. We are all sick of this lazy self interested politics that puts the interests of political parties before the interests of people.”