Northern Ireland parties slam Tories as Rishi Sunak announces General Election

Northern Ireland parties slam Tories as Rishi Sunak announces General Election

SEVERAL parties in Northern Ireland have called for the Conservatives to be ousted after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a General Election.

Citing the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, Mr Sunak said the Tories had steered a country 'whose future hung in the balance' through what he described as 'the most challenging times since the second world war'.

As a result, he said a vote for the Tories offered continued stability, claiming economic growth was exceeding expectations and inflation had stabilised.

Meanwhile, Mr Sunak said a vote for Labour on July 4 was a vote for uncertainty, claiming: "I don't know what they offer… they have no plan."

However, as Labour anthem Things Can Only Get Better blared in the background and threatened to drown out a rain-drenched Mr Sunak, it became clear not everyone was in tune with the Prime Minister.

In Northern Ireland, where parties will vie for 18 House of Commons seats, Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Alliance Party said the election was a chance to oust the Tories.

'Chaos, pain and turmoil'

"The Tory government has been a disaster for the people in the north — bad for the economy, bad for public services and bad for workers and families as the cost of living soared putting them under pressure," said Sinn Féin First Minister Michelle O'Neill.

"It is time for change. The Westminster election on July 4 is an opportunity to send a clear message. That you want decisions about your life and your future to be made here in Ireland, and not in London."

Taking aim at the controversial Legacy Act, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood criticised the Tories' record in Northern Ireland, saying they had caused 'chaos, pain and turmoil' during their time in power.

"It has taken 14 years but I've finally found something that I agree with this Tory government on — it is time for an election," he said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood (Image: Sam Boal /

"People will now have an opportunity to cast their verdict on not just the last five years of chaos, pain and turmoil but the last 14 years of government that has left communities across Northern Ireland far worse off.

"The mission of the next six weeks could not be clearer — it's time to remove the Tory government from power and install a new administration that understands the value of investing in public services and communities that have been left behind.

"It's time to reverse the toxic Legacy Bill, it's time to restore faith in the power of government as a force for good."

His words were echoed by Alliance leader Naomi Long, who said: "We welcome the announcement of a General Election.

"It has been a long time coming and finally presents a real opportunity for people to remove the failing Conservative Government from power."

'Running out of steam'

Reaction to the announcement from unionist parties focussed primarily on the future of the union.

The DUP supported a minority Conservative government with a confidence-and-supply agreement after the 2017 General Election.

However, former leader Jeffrey Donaldson's Safeguarding the Union deal with the government earlier this year is not believed to have been met with universal acclaim within the party.

Interim DUP leader Gavin Robinson said whichever party was in power after the election must work to strengthen the union.

"It has been clear for some time that this Government is fast running out of steam," said interim DUP leader Gavin Robinson.

"The General Election will provide the people of Northern Ireland with a clear choice as to who they think is best placed to represent them and deliver the best outcomes for them.

"While political progress and new mechanisms were secured in negotiations with the Conservative Government to allow the Assembly and Executive to be re-established the next Government will have much more to do to ensure Northern Ireland benefits as an integral part of the United Kingdom rather than remaining subject to European laws in some areas of our daily lives."

Interim DUP leader Gavin Robinson (Image: Charles McQuillan / Getty Images)

In its statement, the TUV — which has formed an electoral pack with Reform UK — appeared to take issue with the aforementioned deal, which saw power-sharing return to Stormont.

"TUV welcomes today's announcement of a general election," said leader Jim Allister.

"Having run away from debating the issues, there will be no place for those who embraced the division of the United Kingdom by returning to Stormont as Protocol implementors to hide now that the issues go to the people.

"This election will be a battle between those who believe in the unity of the UK and those who believe Northern Ireland can be treated as part of the EU."

Meanwhile, UUP leader Doug Beattie stated: "Here in Northern Ireland, we have a clear choice, carry on as before or set the conditions for a change.

"We need less pessimism, negativity and isolationism, less angry voices, less confrontation.

"We need representatives in Westminster who can stand up and make the case for Northern Ireland, its people, its economy, its future."