Sir Jeffrey Donaldson: US delegation is most undiplomatic visit I’ve ever seen

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has described the visit of a US delegation led by Congressman Richard Neal as the “most undiplomatic” he has ever seen.

By PA Reporter
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 12:44 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th May 2022, 2:21 pm

Speaking after meeting the delegation, he said they had “been left in no doubt whatsoever the strength of feeling amongst unionists about this visit”.

“It has been the most undiplomatic visit I have ever seen to these shores, the language, if I may be diplomatic myself, it has been unhelpful, and it displays an alarming ignorance of the concerns of unionism, and I can assure you that our words today to the delegation were not manufactured, nor are the legitimate and genuine concerns that we represent and that are shared by all unionists,” he told media at Stormont.

“We reminded the delegation that not a single unionist elected to this Assembly supports the protocol, that powersharing only works on the basis of a cross-community consensus and that that consensus does not currently exist.

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DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson speaking to the media in the great hall following his meeting with Congressman Richard Neal at Parliament Buildings, Stormont

“What we need now are solutions. What we do not need are people telling us that we must fully implement a protocol that is harmful to Northern Ireland, and if it were fully implemented would present what I regard as an economic tsunami for this place.”

The US congressional delegation has been holding talks at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, with Northern Ireland’s five main parties about the dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Senior congressman Richard Neal is leading the bipartisan delegation.

Stormont is the latest stop on the US politicians’ ongoing visit to the island of Ireland.

The delegation has also held meetings in London and Brussels during its protocol fact-finding mission.

Making reference to Congressman Neal’s use of the term “planter” in relation to unionists in Northern Ireland, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said his DUP colleague Jonathan Buckley told the American politician that “he himself is a planter”.

“Then I took the opportunity to remind him of a few facts of American history. I reminded him of an event in 1773 when a group of American patriots pushed tea chests into the harbour at Boston, and their mantra on that occasion was no taxation without representation and they fought a revolutionary war based upon that principle,” he said.

“And I reminded Congressman Neal and his colleagues that this too is our mantra: that today Northern Ireland is subjected to laws and taxes into which it has no say, that not a single member elected to this Assembly can influence many of the laws that now oversee how we conduct trade in our country because they are imposed by the European Union, and there is no democratic accountability to this institution or any democratic institution in this country.

“So I reminded Congressman Neal that the principle of no taxation without representation applies to Northern Ireland and we need to sort that out and until we sort it out and see the solution being put in place we cannot make the progress that we want to see.”

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie claimed that the US delegation now understand unionists’ concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Speaking after meeting the delegation, Mr Beattie said he made their concerns clear to the group of US politicians.

Mr Beattie added: “They understood the unionist point of view in regards to the Belfast Agreement and how our relationships east-west, and north-south are being damaged and how they can be easily fixed.

“We made it clear that if they didn’t come out of it (meeting) understanding the unionist point, then they haven’t been listening.

“It’s my understanding that they now understand the issues at hand, what is affecting the unionist people, what has the concern of the unionist people, and it’s not manufactured – this is long-term – and we have said this since the protocol first appeared.

“I think they get it now. But we will know if they get it if they come out and say “we now understand”, because we made that point quite heavily to them.”

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