Meeting US delegation a waste of time: Jim Allister

The DUP and UUP were urged last night to pull out of today’s meeting with a US Congressional delegation whose leader this week described unionists as “planters”.

Jim Allister, the TUV leader, described discussions with Congressman Richard Neal and his eight colleagues from Capitol Hill as “a waste of time”.

But Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Doug Beattie defended their scheduled talks at Stormont with Mr Neal by vowing to confront him over the label as well as his accusation that unionists had “manufactured” problems regarding the NI Protocol.

Mr Allister said: “What is the point in engaging with someone who dismisses unionists as planters – implying that they have no right to be in a country they and their families have lived in for hundreds of years, many more one might add than Irish-Americans have been in North America?”

Congressman Richard Neal visits the Derry Girls mural as he leads a Congressional delegation on a visit to Londonderry

The TUV leader added that his fellow unionist leaders would have sent “a stronger message by simply refusing to meet with him”.

But Sir Jeffrey said he would use the meeting to upbraid Mr Neal over his comments this week and that he was always “a firm believer in challenging those who have adopted a Sinn Fein narrative”.

The DUP leader added: “This Congressional visit has been more of a hindrance than a help.”

Mr Beattie said he would confront Mr Neal over his “bull in a china shop” behaviour towards unionists and unionism.

He described Mr Neal’s reference to planter as “derogatory” and “would make the road ahead much harder”.

Meanwhile, as Sinn Fein talked up the prospect of Irish unity to their US allies this week the latest Life and Times Survey from Queen’s University has found only 34% of the NI public favours a united Ireland.