Politics ‘only way to solve problems of protocol’

The suspected UVF bomb hoax directed at Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney contributes nothing to the anti-protocol cause, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has warned.

The DUP leader used his first major speech of the Assembly election campaign yesterday to denounce the bomb alert that forced Mr Coveney to flee from a north Belfast community health centre on Friday.

Sir Jeffrey said there were “no solutions” to be found in such activitiies by paramilitary groups.

Speaking at a Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry event in Belfast, he said: “It is only through politics we will find those solutions and that’s what I’ve sought to outline this moring, so I am absolutely clear that these attacks are wrong. I condemn them. They have no place and no part to play in the future of Northern Ireland. I think we should continue to encourage a culture of respect.”

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 28th March 2022 Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is pictured at the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce '5 Leaders 5 Days' conference. Sir Jeffrey Donaldson outlined the DUPâ€TMs plans for business and economic growth at the event in the Europa Hotel, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

The DUP leader cautioned against inflammatory language used at any anti-protocol rallies, adding that he had no problem with peaceful protests but “we need to be careful about what we say”.

Addressing industry leaders as part of the Chamber of Commerce’s meetings with the five party leaders at Stormont, Sir Jeffrey referred to the DUP’s five-point plan to build a better future for Northern Ireland.

“When our economy is thriving, Northern Ireland thrives. I have no doubt that Northern Ireland’s businesses are on the right path to recover, rebuild and rebound back stronger than ever.

“In the next Assembly term, we want to support 20,000 new jobs. We have ambitious targets to grow the Northern Ireland economy in the next five years, across a whole range of seectors from technology to tourism, construction and retail,” Sir Jeffrey told the conference.

On the DUP’s five-point plan, a party spokesperson later said that if Sinn Fein emerge as the largest political force after May 5 they will focus on “their plan for a divisive border poll” rather than the need to concentrate on plans to fix health, education and grow the economy.

“The only way for the almost 60% of people who want to keep the Union is to vote for the DUP. A vote for any other party will put power and Northern Ireland in the hands of Sinn Fein,” the DUP spokesperson added.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said a strong vote for her party would give the public “a chance to break the cycle of crises seen over the past mandate” at Stormont over the last three years.