Sinn Fein have accused Boris Johnson of playing dangerous games with the people of Northern Ireland and shamefully using the nation as a ‘pawn’ in negotiations with the EU.
President Mary Lou McDonald said the UK government was helping the DUP block Sinn Fein’s right to form an executive following their election victory.
It comes after Sinn Fein became the first nationalist party to winning the most seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly in recent elections.
But the devolved administration has been unable to function since Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the DUP, said his party’s refusal to reinstate a power-sharing executive was part of a protest against the protocol from Northern Ireland.
Speaking in Dublin today, ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to Northern Ireland next week, Ms McDonald accused the UK government of trying to ‘frustrate the democratic will of the people’.
She said: “There has to be respect for people’s votes and there has to be recognition that there is very serious work to be done as we are in the throes of a cost of living crisis.
“Mr Johnson cannot play games with people in the north or the island of Ireland. He has colluded with the DUP to use Ireland, to use the north of Ireland, to use trade unionism as a pawn in a larger game that is being played with the EU.
“This is clearly a disgraceful tactic and a completely unacceptable approach.”
She said the DUP not only stopped the formation of an executive, but also tried to veto the functioning of the assembly.
Ms McDonald said: “It’s outrageous. The UK government has aided the DUP in these blocking tactics and they must refrain, and certainly when we meet Mr Johnson we will also make that very clear.
Read more: What is the Northern Ireland Protocol and why is it important?
“We want a partnership and a response to the really, really difficult circumstances that people find themselves in. So yes, we have heard the message from London and they are making noise.
“The people of this island deserve so much better than this and Mr Johnson and his government cannot play these dangerous games with the people of the north or the island of Ireland.”
Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill also spoke in Dublin alongside Ms McDonald, saying the DUP was punishing the public for “their own public disorder”.
She said: “There shouldn’t be any delay. We were there yesterday, we showed up as we promised the electorate. But the DUP didn’t show up and let us form an executive and do our job.
“The DUP is doing two things – they are punishing the public for their own Brexit mess and they are being made easy for it by the Tories.”
It came after the Prime Minister warned the UK could abandon the protocol, which is part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, unless Brussels agrees to major changes.
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The government has said the requirement to screen goods from Britain to Northern Ireland in order to keep the border with the Republic open is hurting business and stoking sectarian tensions.
However, the EU has warned that it will respond with retaliatory measures if the UK acts unilaterally.
Earlier today, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said the government’s threats to tear up the Northern Ireland protocol came “at the worst possible time” due to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
As well as stepping up economic pressure, Mr Lammy said it was ‘wrong, short-sighted and misjudged’ to open divisions with Britain’s European allies in the face of the EU invasion Ukraine by Russia.
He said: “Instead of finding practical solutions, they are planning a trade war in a cost of living crisis.”
In response to Sinn Fein’s comments today, a No 10 spokesman told Sky News: “The protocol is causing real problems on the ground and its current operation undermines the Good Friday Agreement.
“It also does not require cross-community support. It must be fixed to protect the stability of NI and the integrity of the UK.”
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