'Blatantly sectarian' - Row erupts as DUP prevent scheduled North South Ministerial Council from going ahead

The actions of the DUP that resulted in the cancellation of a scheduled meeting of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) on Friday have been described by Justice Minister and Alliance Party leader, Naomi Long, as "blatantly sectarian".

Friday, 16th April 2021, 2:37 pm
Updated Friday, 16th April 2021, 2:38 pm

The meeting between Northern Ireland Infrastructure Minister and SDLP MLA, Nichola Mallon, and the Irish government's Minister for Transport, Climate, Environment & Communications, Eamon Ryan, TD, did not go ahead as planned because no unionist minister had been put forward to attend.

In order for NSMC meetings to proceed they require the attendance of two Northern Ireland Executive ministers - the second minister must be of an opposing political view to that of the first.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP have said it is the second time in as many weeks the DUP has failed to put forward a unionist minister to attend a NSMC meeting.

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Pictured from left to right, Infrastructure Minister and deputy leader of the SDLP, Nichola Mallon, First Minister and leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster and Justice Minister and Alliance Party leader, Naomi Long.

The first incident occurred on March 31 when a NSMC meeting concerning languages was cancelled when no unionist minister was nominated to accompany Communities Minister and Sinn Fein MLA, Deirdre Hargey.

First Minister and DUP leader, Arlene Foster, said Friday's meeting did not proceed because of what she described as a timing issue but she insisted it would take place in the future.

"This is the second NSMC meeting in as many weeks to be obstructed in this way," said Alliance Party leader, Naomi Long.

"Simply unacceptable.

"Another reason why the binary structures need reform. Ministers shouldn't need "minders" from "the other sort" to proceed with business.

"Blatantly sectarian and another veto."

The next scheduled NSMC meeting, which will focus on agriculture, is due to take place on Wednesday April 26, 2021.

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