Doug Beattie: I’ll tell US delegation principle of consent must apply equally

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie has said he will challenge the US Congressional delegation to respect the principle of consent when they meet with him on Thursday.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 5:36 pm
UUP leader Doug Beattie will meet the US Congressional delegation on Thursday
UUP leader Doug Beattie will meet the US Congressional delegation on Thursday

Mr Beattie has vowed to “stand firm in defence” of the Belfast Agreement when the UUP hold talks with the nine US Congress members.

He said: “Americans should understand the consent principle very well from their own past. They broke from British rule in 1776 on the slogan ‘no taxation without representation’ which outlined a simple yet very important democratic deficit.

“The people of Northern Ireland did not have a voice in the design of the protocol. If they had, I am confident checks on goods moving to Northern Ireland from Great Britain as a final destination would never have been included in any trade deal with the EU. The democratic deficit would have been dealt with and the principle of consent upheld, to ensure the Belfast Agreement was not damaged.”

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The UUP leader said he will emphasise to the US Congressmen and women that the principle of consent is the cornerstone of the Belfast Agreement.

“One of the fundamental principles of that agreement is that change requires the consent of the people and the Northern Ireland Protocol does not have the consent of the unionist community.

“The history of Northern Ireland shows that treaties that do not have the support of all communities will simply not work. Look no further than the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. Like the current protocol, it was imposed on the people of Northern Ireland who rejected it in huge numbers and it was replaced by the Belfast Agreement. The protocol will face the same fate.”

Referring to the leader of the Congressional delegation, Richard Neal, Mr Beattie added: “I shall be making this point to the Congressman on Thursday in a constructive manner and trust he will agree that the consent principle must apply equally to all communities if we are truly to honour the spirit of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.”

Mr Neal is a long-standing ally of Gerry Adams on Capitol Hill in Washington DC and once referred to the former Sinn Fein president as his “lifelong friend”. The senior House of Representatives politician has also attended memorial services in the United States for the IRA and INLA prisoners who died in the 1981 hunger strike.

The DUP, meanwhile, said Sinn Fein leaders this week are demonstrating once again that they had been right to argue that republicans would use their electoral position to demand a border poll.

Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said the actions of Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald over the last seven days underlines that Sinn Fein is “entirely focused on their divisive border poll plans and has abandoned any semblance of consensus politics”.

Mr Middleton continued: “Last week Michelle O’Neill was in cahoots with the Union-wrecking SNP and this week Mary Lou McDonald is touring London studios and foreign media demanding a divisive border poll.”

Referring to Mrs McDonald’s appearance on GMTV yesterday morning, Mr Middleton said: “Without a hint of embarrassment on national television, Mary Lou McDonald is even claiming votes cast for non-unionist parties support her border poll plan. Again, this is what we warned. Every first preference vote cast for any other party than the DUP was a vote to help Sinn Fein border poll propaganda.”

He challenged non-unionist MLAs, most notably the Alliance Party who dismissed the DUP’s warning, to state publicly “if they are comfortable being co-opted onto the border poll bandwagon” by the Sinn Fein president.