The resignation has caused political turmoil, with the government attempting to speed legislation through Westminster to allow a caretaker government to keep Stormont going until the assembly election scheduled for May 5.
The DUP’s Ian Paisley told MPs: “I think there is truth to the point tonight that four days into a crisis, almost five days, the Prime Minister of this nation has not spoken. I think that’s wrong.
“I think the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom ought to have spoken on Thursday evening on this issue. I think he should not have shut up about it until the issue is resolved. I think they are his responsibilities.”
He added: “And I think it’s very obvious to some people that there is a fear that the Conservative and Unionist Party, which governs this nation, is actually a nationalist party, an English nationalist party, that is not concerned about a border in the Irish Sea, but is concerned about a red wall on the mainland island, and that’s what eats them up every single day. If that is their only concern then that Government is betraying the union and the unionist people, and that’s the reality of where we are this evening.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also questioned the whereabouts of Boris Johnson. “I hear a lot in this House of the precious union and how this is all about the union – where is the Prime Minister or even his Secretary of State for Northern Ireland [Brandon Lewis] when a key part of that supposedly precious union and the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, and the executive of that administration, has collapsed?” he asked.
Former NI secretary Julian Smith told MPs it is not “just coincidence” that changes to the NI (Ministers, Elections, and Petitions of Concern) Bill, which would facilitate a caretaker government, were introduced just before the first minister resigned.
“I know there are people across Northern Ireland who have concerns and questions about how involved the Government was in last week’s decision by the first minister to leave power sharing,” he said.
But DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, responding, said: “As far back as last September I indicated the course of action I would take if the Government failed to act and honour its commitments in New Decade, New Approach, and the question of the timing of our decision is not influenced by any amendment to this Bill.”
Meanwhile in the Lords, NIO Minister Lord Caine updated peers on the passage of the bill, which is before MPs on Monday. “If the legislation, to which I referred earlier, is to receive royal assent shortly then there will be a period after the next election when ministers can remain in place while an executive is formed so the situation is not exactly, or hopefully won’t be exactly, akin to the one we found ourselves in after 2017 and (Lord Hain) found after the assembly fell in 2002,” he said.
He also confirmed that Brandon Lewis is going to Washington on Tuesday to meet US officials who would be “very influential” in maintaining stability in NI.
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