PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has been labelled “dangerous, reckless and dishonourable” for his support of the DUP’s refusal to form a new government in the North.
The Northern Ireland Assembly elections held earlier this month saw Sinn Féin make history by winning the largest number of seats for the first time ever, with the party’s Northern leader Michelle O’Neill now in line to become First Minister.
Their success puts the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in second place, followed by the Alliance Party in third, in terms of Assembly seats held.
But within days of the votes being counted, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson announced that his party would not take up their roles in the Northern Ireland Executive until their ongoing issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol were addressed.
That decision leaves the North’s devolved government unable to function, and the people of the North at risk, according to Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald.
“All of the political parties, bar one, the DUP, are ready, willing and anxious to get back to business, roll up their sleeves and get back to work,” she told The Irish Post this week, ahead of a visit to London to meet with British politicians.
She added that it is a “very frustrating position” to be in, with “the DUP, in effect, holding society to ransom”.
Explaining the reality for people in the North, she said “it means real hardship”.
“We have got hundreds of millions of pounds that cannot be allocated by the acting finance minister Conor Murphy, because we don’t have an Executive, a government,” she explained.
“That means at a time when many people struggle to get their groceries or keep the lights on, we have supports that should be in those people’s pockets, but we are caught in this awful limbo.
“The DUP are saying this is because of the Northern Ireland Protocol, but we don’t accept that,” she adds, “what is more worrying is that it seems to us that Boris Johnson has acquiesced in all of this, he has been in cahoots with DUP and he is playing what I regard as a dangerous, reckless and actually quite a dishonourable game with unionism.”
Ms McDonald believes Mr Johnson has made hollow promises to the DUP, which now put the people of the North at risk.
“He has led [the DUP} to believe that he would get rid of the Protocol,” Ms McDonald says.
“That’s not going to happen, it’s not an option, he knows that.
“The British Prime Minister knows as well as I do that on the issues that need smoothing out in the Protocol - which, by the way, we have no objection to being raised and resolved - there is a channel through which that can happen.
“Yet he is choosing instead to create real instability and to put in jeopardy so much that has been achieved instead of being honest with everyone, or being honest with unionism, that in reality the past isn’t available, the past is gone, the days of your way or no way is over.”
The DUP believes the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was agreed within Britain’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to avoid the establishment of a hard border on the island of Ireland, is causing economic and political damage to the North.
Ms McDonald believes their issues are of their own making.
“The DUP argued strongly for Brexit, they wanted the hardest possible Brexit and the Protocol is a consequence of that,” she explained.
“Boris Johnson needs to get real and be honest about that as well,” she adds, “but above all else he needs to say very clearly that the British government will act in good faith and engage with the EU.”
She added: “It’s really intolerable that we are in this limbo situation, but what is even worse is that the British Prime Minister’s position is to back up the DUP and say as far as we are concerned, we are ok with things being held up [in the North] until the Protocol issues are sorted.
“It’s unacceptable and not just to Sinn Féin or to nationalists, it’s unacceptable to everybody.
“Everybody has to live, we have to provide for our families and get on with things, we can’t be kept in this state of limbo for months, or even years.”