Theresa May has thrown a “grenade into the middle” of the Northern Ireland peace process, the leader of the SDLP has claimed.
Colum Eastwood said, by calling a general election, the Prime Minister has sacrificed the opportunity for Stormont parties to reach an agreement to restore the region’s powersharing government.
Talks have reconvened between Stormont’s political parties and the British and Irish governments in a bid to restore the collapsed institutions.
However, Mr Eastwood said the announcement of a general election has now thrown the process into uncertainty. He admitted it was now going to be “very difficult” to reach a deal by the deadline of early May.
“The British Prime Minister threw a grenade into the middle of our peace process. She has sacrificed the opportunity for progress,” said Mr Eastwood.
“That doesn’t mean we are walking away. We are still here. We will keep meeting until we can get this powersharing establishment up and running. The British Government seems to have walked away from it. They need to get back around the table.
“While Theresa May goes off and tries to destroy the British Labour Party, we still have a job to do in Northern Ireland and we are not about to give up on that.
“It’s a pity the British Government thinks so little of Northern Ireland that they call an election in the middle of our talks process.”
Mr Eastwood did not rule out the possibility of entering into an election pact with other anti-Brexit parties in the forthcoming election.
“If Theresa May wants an election about Brexit, let’s show her that people in Northern Ireland don’t support a hard Brexit.
“We don’t do sectarian pacts where it’s unionist versus nationalist. We are open to any discussion on how we can protect the remain vote in Northern Ireland. We will speak to anybody who wants to retain our membership of the European Union and protect our citizens from a hard Brexit.”