Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Doug Beattie rubbish Mary Lou McDonald’s united Ireland claims

Unionists have rubbished Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald’s claims that a united Ireland can be achieved without violence through the Good Friday Agreement.

By Niall Deeney
Thursday, 30th December 2021, 7:00 am
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said there was still overwhelming support for the Union
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said there was still overwhelming support for the Union

The leaders of the two largest unionist parties, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP and the UUP’s Doug Beattie, dismissed the comments as unrealistic.

TUV leader Jim Allister, meanwhile, said Ms McDonald’s comments show that the Belfast Agreement was “only ever a stepping stone” to republicans.

Sir Jeffrey said: “Sinn Fein have spent a lifetime telling their supporters a united Ireland is just around the corner. After 100 years of Northern Ireland’s existence, all reliable sources show continued overwhelming support for our place in the United Kingdom.”

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He continued: “Republicans who have refused every proposal to mark significant events such as the Centenary of Northern Ireland or Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee will persuade no-one with tales of how wonderful a united Ireland would be. If Mary Lou McDonald wants to persuade people of Sinn Fein’s tolerance and respect for British identity, then she should tell her colleagues to start now.”

The DUP leader said the people of Northern Ireland want to see institutions such as the health service “work better” as he hailed the benefits of “being part of the fifth largest economy in the world”.

That sentiment was echoed by the leader of the UUP, Doug Beattie.

“Mary Lou McDonald will always try to keep the conversation about a united Ireland in the public discourse, but she does so with no substance and no plan,” Mr Beattie said.

“The reality is she, and Sinn Fein, will never be able to deliver a united Ireland.

“Sinn Fein are a party which supported violence. They supported IRA terrorism, murder and torture which will never be washed away until they themselves come to terms with it.”

The UUP leader added: “The majority of people in Northern Ireland and the wider island are looking at soaring energy costs and unaffordable housing. They want politicians to deal with our healthcare, education, the environment and sustainable jobs.

“They want future generations to have the opportunity denied past generations due to endless fights about the status of Northern Ireland.”

Mr Allister, meanwhile, said: “Mary Lou McDonald’s aggressive comments demonstrate that for nationalists and republicans the Belfast Agreement never was a settlement but a stepping stone process towards the attainment of the IRA goal of extraction of Northern Ireland from the UK.

“Only some naive unionists ever thought it was a settlement. On the contrary, its very institutions, as McDonald indicates, are transitory and aids to the process.”

He added: “The big lie in the Sinn Fein leader’s diatribe is that before the Belfast Agreement there was no democratic route to constitutional change.

“Both the Ireland Act 1949 and the referendum provision in the Northern Ireland Act 1973 provided such a route, but instead Sinn Fein’s IRA butchered thousands in their bloodthirsty terrorist campaign.”

He described the remark about a 12th of July bank holiday as “condescending”.