Naomi Long: Northern Ireland used as play thing by UK government

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said the UK government has sometimes used Northern Ireland as “a bit of a play thing” which is “damaging” relations and devolution.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 23rd May 2022, 8:06 am
Updated Monday, 23rd May 2022, 9:58 am

“I understand [the DUP’s] lack of trust in the UK government because I think at times the UK government have used Northern Ireland as a bit of a play thing when it comes to maintaining a grievance with Europe,” Ms Long told Sky News’ ‘Sophy Ridge On Sunday’ programme.

“They’re willing to continue to have this constant grievance with the European Union and Northern Ireland is a useful lever for them. But it’s very damaging for community relations and for good governance in Northern Ireland.”

In order to get past this impasse over the Northern Ireland Protocol, Ms Long said that trust is needed.

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Alliance. Party leader Naomi Long. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

She said: “What we need to do now is build trust with the European Union. We’re asking them essentially, to devolve the protection of the single market to the UK to allow us to have a green channel for goods coming from GB to Northern Ireland that won’t go any further.

“But for them to do that, they need to trust the UK government will do what it says it’s going to do.”

The East Belfast MLA said she understands that the border friction is “difficult” for unionists, but added that it was an “inevitability as a consequence of Brexit”.

“Unfortunately, Brexit put borders and border friction back on the agenda, and that is very difficult for the very delicate ecology of Northern Ireland to deal with,” she said.

“The protocol was an attempt, albeit, I would say, a rather heavy-handed attempt, to deal with those border frictions and to ensure there was still free flow across the border on the island of Ireland and no hard border established, but it did in the end lead to an additional level of friction in the Irish Sea.”

The DUP has refused to elect a speaker to the Assembly in order to put pressure on the UK government to change how the protocol operates.

On the stalemate at Stormont, Ms Long has said the alternative to the Alliance Party’s suggestion of non-sectarian powersharing is the “stop-go” system “where the majority of the time we don’t have a functioning devolution”.

She said this “cycle of crisis and collapse” was not “sustainable”.