NI Protocol: ‘Unionists won’t sit in corner and be quiet, our voices will be heard’

Unionists will not sit in the corner and be quiet for Sinn Fein and the SDLP, DUP MP Sammy Wilson has warned.

By Henry McDonald
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 10:36 pm

Mr Wilson said that SDLP MP Claire Hanna’s demand that his DUP colleague Carla Lockhart should “take his (John Hume’s) name out of your mouth” during a parliamentary debate on Tuesday demonstrated nationalist attitudes to unionism in general.

“Carla Lockhart rightly referenced John Hume’s commitment to power-sharing in the House of Commons on Tuesday. The bad mannered response from Claire Hanna left the Commons in shock. People say things in the heat of the moment, but Claire should apologise to Carla,” Mr Wilson said.

The East Antrim MP continued: “John Hume did not believe in majority rule, yet it seems that the SDLP and SF, aided by their wee helpers in the Alliance Party, have developed a fondness for majority rule. They want a power grab rather than power-sharing. They want to ignore the views of unionists.

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DUP MP Sammy Wilson

“The cosy coalition of Alliance, SF and SDLP MLAs may want unionists to sit in the corner in silence but our vision is one of Northern Ireland where there is genuine power-sharing, where there is genuine commitment to catering for unionists and nationalists and where respect is not a one-way street.”

Mr Wilson said the DUP and all unionists were unapologetic in voicing opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol and would not be silenced on the issue.

“Since the election, the SDLP and Sinn Fein attitude to unionists has been ‘sit there and be quiet’. Well unionists will not be quiet. With not a single unionist MLA or MP supporting the protocol, we will be making our voices heard. We have been raising our lack of support for the protocol for more than two years. We have been reasonable and patient,” he said.

On government moves this week to draw up legislation to potentially override core elements of the protocol, Mr Wilson added: “If we can restore Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom, then the prize is great. The prize is stable devolution and the integrity of the EU and UK markets protected.”

In her speech in the House of Commons on Tuesday Ms Lockhart was actually referencing an article written by Lord Trimble this week in which he recalled how he as Ulster Unionist leader along with John Hume risked so much to secure the Belfast Agreement in 1998.

Speaking after Liz Truss outlined plans for legislation that could replace key aspects of the protocol, Ms Lockhart said: “Other members have referenced Lord Trimble’s article where he says, ‘the government must act now on its responsibility to safeguard the future of Northern Ireland and replace its damaging and community-splitting protocol’.”

Ms Lockhart added: “And with his comments in mind one really wonders what John Hume would make of the divisive and majoritarian approach of his successor, the member from Foyle.”

As the Upper Bann DUP mentioned Mr Hume and current SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, Ms Hanna interjected: “Take this name out of your mouth.”

The TUV said that the shift in the government’s line towards tackling the Union-breaking aspects of the protocol was due to their party setting the agenda within wider unionism.

Lorna Smyth, TUV spokesperson in Lagan Valley, said: “From the early days of the protocol TUV made the argument that the only way unionists would force the government to move on the issue was to make them choose between Stormont and the protocol. This was the message Jim Allister drove home at rallies and public meetings the length and breadth of Northern Ireland and in countless statements to the press.

“Now, this core TUV message is centre stage and those who once implemented the protocol have shifted to the TUV position. Everyone who voted TUV can see the value of doing so as suddenly the government has promised action. Be in no doubt – there are 65,000 reasons why things may now be moving.

“TUV is setting the agenda and we will continue to hold the feet of the establishment to the fire to ensure that there is no backsliding.”

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Minister Conor Burns said yesterday that he expects the UK will reach a compromise with the EU although legislation will still be advanced through parliament to give the government powers to change the protocol.

Speaking to GB News, Mr Burns said he believed the EU can “re-engage with us in a spirit of compromise”.