Sir Jeffrey Donaldson video message to US to drive home Northern Ireland protocol message

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson will tell a powerful delegation from the US Congress that their assumption that the Northern Ireland Protocol protects the Belfast Agreement is simply not true.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 7:42 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 7:51 am

The DUP leader will also deliver a message to the nine members of Capitol Hill’s ‘Ways and Means Committee’ that there is no unionist support for the protocol and therefore no consensus in the Assembly.

In a video message which will be sent out to the United States, Sir Jeffrey said: “Power-sharing can only be taken forward on the basis of cross-community consensus. That consensus doesn’t exist at this moment. Not a single unionist MLA elected to the Assembly here at Stormont supports the protocol.

“Therefore I will be making it clear to the Americans that the idea that the protocol protects the Good Friday Agreement and its successor agreements is simply not true. The protocol is undermining the Good Friday Agreement, is undermining the political institutions, prevents us from reaching a consensus in forming an Executive and therefore the choice is very clear – either we go forward with the agreement and power-sharing on the basis of consensus and remove the Irish Sea border or we have a huge problem that needs to be addressed. The sooner it happens the better for all of us.”

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Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald with the bipartisan US congressional delegation, led by senior Democrat Richard Neal, at Leinster House in Dublin

The US Congressional delegation visiting the UK and the Irish Republic is headed by Democrat Richard Neal who last year planted a tree in Springfield, Massachusetts to remember the 1981 republican hunger strike.

Mr Neal, who like his colleagues is a member of the ‘Ways and Means Committee’ in the US Congress, once described Gerry Adams as “a lifelong friend”.

Although Sir Jeffrey is scheduled to meet the group from the House of Representatives later this week his party colleague and DUP MLA for North Belfast Phillip Brett said the delegation had spent too much time with the Friends of Sinn Fein chasing Irish American votes rather than listening to other viewpoints in Northern Ireland.

Mr Brett said: “Congressman Ritchie Neal and many of his fellow travellers are regularly seen in the company of Sinn Fein and have spoken of their desire to see Northern Ireland removed from the United Kingdom.

“It is therefore no surprise that their visit to Northern Ireland seems tone deaf to the concerns of unionists.

“If the US delegation is only interested in a one-sided approach to Northern Ireland, then they would have been better staying at home.”

He added: “Those in the States calling for the ‘full implementation’ of the protocol only expose how out of touch they are with reality in Northern Ireland. They should spend less time with Sinn Fein chasing Irish-American votes and more time listening to genuine views in Northern Ireland.”

One of the US delegation, Democrat Congressman Dan Kildee, has urged UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to hold face-to-face negotiations with the EU rather than act unilaterally to change the protocol.

Mr Kildee told RTE’s ‘Morning Ireland’ programme that it was “disappointing” that Ms Truss and the British government were considering unilateral action.

“We don’t believe that is the proper path. We think unilateral solutions will not work, face-to-face negotiation to work out some of these technical questions can be achieved and that’s what we currently recommend.”

On his meeting with the foreign secretary in London at the weekend, Mr Kildee continued: “The purpose of the meeting was to make it very very clear to them what our position is and has been. The position of chairman Neal, Nancy Pelosi and the American government in general supports, that (unilateral action) we don’t believe that will lead to a positive outcome.”

The group of nine Congress members also repeated their warning that any damage to the Belfast Agreement will result in no post-Brexit UK-USA trade deal.

The delegation met with Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald in Dublin yesterday. She described US political leaders as “guarantors of our agreements”.

The Sinn Fein president continued: “There would be no agreement without the US. These agreements face challenges from a British government that plays fast and loose with international law and places narrow Tory Party concerns above the needs of the people and economy of the north.”