Northern Ireland Protocol: UUP leader Doug Beattie blasts ‘derogatory’ language - I’m no planter - what century is US Democrat Congressman Richard Neal in?

UUP leader Doug Beattie has accused US Congressman Richard Neal of using “derogatory” language to describe unionists in Northern Ireland.

By Philip Bradfield
Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 1:44 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 6:46 pm

US congressman Richard Neal is part of a delegation of American politicians visiting Northern Ireland to investigate issues surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Leading US politicians have warned that the UK’s proposed trade deal with the US could be at risk if the UK takes unilateral action to amend trade problems with the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The NI Consumer Council revealed last week that some 130 retailers have now refused to do business with NI consumers since the UK exit from the EU while Secretary of State Brandon Lewis told MPs recently that the number was around 200.

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Senior US Democrat Richard Neal speaking to the media at Iveagh House, the Department of Foreign Affairs, in Dublin. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

But US Congressman Richard Neal yesterday claimed the trade difficulties were a “manufactured issue”.

He also went on to use the term “planter” to describe unionists, in the context of the Good Friday Agreement, a term dating back to the Plantation of Ulster in the early 17th Century.

UUP leader Doug Beattie called on Richard Neal to amend his language. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

“We think that a [US] trade agreement with the UK is desirable,” Mr Neal said. “However, the Good Friday Agreement belongs to America too. We were honest brokers along the way, accepting the notion that we would find space for the planter and the Gael to live together.”

But UUP leader Doug Beattie was deeply offended at the term, which is sometimes used in a sectarian fashion to insinuate that unionists have no legitimacy to be in Northern Ireland.

“You listen to all of that and sometimes you wonder what century Richie Neal is actually thinking through here,” Mr Beattie told the Nolan Show. “I mean, to come up with ‘planter and the Gael - have we not moved on?

“I’m an Irishman, a proud Irishman, proudly British. My family come from Armagh and County Down. I am no planter. He needs to understand that that terminology alone is derogatory to many people like me.

“So, somebody needs to have a word and say, ‘Look, you need to change the language because the language that he’s using is incredibly disappointing. And it’s simply not helpful....”.

Mr Beattie also said that having spoken to the US Government, US State Department, EU Brexit negotiator Maros Sefcovic, the Taoiseach and Irish Foreign Minister, he did not believe that any of them viewed the protocol problems as “manufactured” as Mr Neal claimed.

Mr Neal also gave a grave warning against a return to heavy security checks on the Irish border - something that has left many stakeholders scratching their heads, as nobody in the debate is proposing it.