Next PM must face reality that NI Protocol is here to stay, O’Neill warns

The Sinn Fein vice president said Northern Ireland was the ‘collateral damage’ in the ‘bedlam and chaos’ within the Tory party.

09 July 2022

The next prime minister must face up to the reality that the Northern Ireland Protocol is here to stay, Michelle O’Neill has said.

The Sinn Fein vice president said she has warned newly appointed Secretary of State for the region Shailesh Vara that the Government must stop “placating the DUP” and start being “even-handed” with Stormont’s political parties.

The republican party has accused the Government of doing the DUP’s bidding by introducing domestic legislation at Westminster to empower ministers to unilaterally scrap parts of the contentious post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Northern Ireland Secretary Shailesh Vara begins role
Newly appointed Northern Ireland Secretary Shailesh Vara (NIO/PA)

The DUP is currently blocking the restoration of a Stormont executive in Belfast as part of its campaign against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The party claims the trade arrangements have undermined the basis of powersharing by creating barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Mr Vara has replaced Brandon Lewis as Secretary of State after he quit in the turbulent days ahead of Boris Johnson’s decision to stand down as prime minister.

Ms O’Neill, who attended an Eid celebration in Belfast on Saturday, said Northern Ireland was the “collateral damage” in the “bedlam and chaos” at Westminster.

“I have spoken with the new Secretary of State and I think even his appointment shows the interest that the British government have in the people here – he’s the seventh Secretary of State in the last decade,” she said.

“They come, they go, they are not even-handed in their approach.

“So when I spoke with the new Secretary of State, for however long he’s in post, I made it clear to him that I expect him to try to make Stormont work, to stop placating the DUP, that the people here voted to make politics work and their job as a co-guarantor of the (Good Friday) agreement is actually to be even-handed and try to bring that about.”

Eid al-Adha 2022
Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill (left) attended the Eid festival at Davitt Park GAA grounds in Belfast on Saturday (Mark Marlow/PA)

Ms O’Neill added: “The protocol is here to stay, so they need to stop the high wire act and playing to the gallery.

“We’re caught up in this mess in what’s happening within the Tory party and that’s not good enough for the people here who we represent.

“So, the protocol is here to stay, it’s a necessary mitigation to the hardest Brexit, which the DUP and the Tories delivered.

“So, they now need to find ways to make it work.

“What we want is political certainty, political stability, that’s certainly what the business community want and that’s what the public voted for in the recent election.”

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