Sinn Fein accused of ‘amateur 
dramatics’ on protocol - Foyle DUP MLA Gary Middleton hits back

The DUP has rejected Sinn Fein claims that it is guilty of “reckless and damaging” rhetoric on the NI Protocol – and has reminded republicans of the theatrics they engaged in against possible customs checks on the border.

The fractious exchange came as tensions continued to rise at all levels over the protocol yesterday, with the EU aping loyalist language to threaten a trade war and the PUP withdrawing support for the Belfast Agreement.

Speaking at the Assembly yesterday, Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill called for an end to DUP “sabre rattling” over the protocol. 

She was commenting after a second bus was burnt out in Belfast, reportedly in protest against the trade restrictions. Some bus services were suspended last night as a result.

Foyle DUP MLA Gary Middleton hit back that those burning buses are to be condemned. And he added: “Michelle O’Neill stood at a fake wall on the border with a sledgehammer and said she would smash any north-south border even though none exists. The only party engaging in amateur dramatics is Sinn Fein.”

But Foyle DUP MLA Gary Middleton hit back that those burning buses are to be condemned. And he added: “Michelle O’Neill stood at a fake wall on the border with a sledgehammer and said she would smash any north-south border even though none exists. The only party engaging in amateur dramatics is Sinn Fein.”

Meanwhile, the PUP, which is politically aligned to the UVF, has said there is “no basis” for unionists to continue to support the Belfast Agreement.

Party leader Billy Hutchinson said the “peace process” was not based on a faithful reading of the 1998 accord but rather a vaguer concept of the “spirit” of the agreement – a spirit he claimed has only delivered concessions to nationalists.

Also yesterday, UUP leader Doug Beattie called on the EU to apologise for “scandalous” comments after an unnamed EU diplomat reportedly said of protocol talks: “We are ready for peace, but prepared for war” – a well-known loyalist slogan.

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill speaks to the media in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings, Stormont

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson warned that “there isn’t a single unionist elected representative that supports this protocol”. Noting that the UK is Germany’s largest market in Europe, he said that a trade war “is not the answer here”.