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Northern Ireland is mired in political paralysis

Northern Ireland is mired in political paralysis

A week after Sinn Fein’s historic victory, Northern Ireland is mired in political paralysis, with DUP unionists determined to block the functioning of the new Assembly to oppose post-Brexit arrangements in the British province .

Shortly before the 90 elected representatives followed one another to sign the register during the first session of the Local Assembly in Belfast, the leader of the unionists of the DUP, Jeffrey Donaldson, confirmed the choice of his party to block the operation of the institution. “We have taken the decision not to support at this stage the election of a President to the Assembly”, declared.

Northern Irish protocol at the heart of the blockage

The Unionist leader, whose party is viscerally committed to union with Britain, insisted on the need to “send a clear message” to both the European Union and the British government “that we are very serious on the need to resolve the issue of Northern Irish protocol.

He stressed that “no Unionist elected official” “supports the protocol” and called on the government to act “now” to “restore Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom”.

Customs controls

The newly elected Assembly met on Friday for the first time since Sinn Fein, supporters of reunification with the Republic of Ireland, came first in local elections on May 5, a first in more than a hundred years of history of Province.

But second, the DUP refuses to share power with the nationalist party, as provided for in the peace agreement concluded in 1998, as long as the post-Brexit customs controls provided for in the protocol negotiated by London during the divorce with the ‘European Union.

Publishes “hostage”

Jeffrey Donaldson, who had already refused to appoint a local Deputy Prime Minister, reiterated his fierce opposition to this protocol, which according to him threatens the place of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.

Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein vice-president called to become the new head of the Northern Irish government, accused him of “taking the public hostage”. The British government wants to renegotiate in depth the protocol signed when it left the EU, while Brussels says it is only ready for adjustments. He nevertheless calls on the parties in Northern Ireland to form an executive to offer the inhabitants of the province “the stable government they deserve”.

An “anti-democratic” action

London threatened Thursday to act unilaterally to override the protocol, possibly as early as next week, an unacceptable stance for Brussels that could trigger severe trade retaliation. But according to Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, any unilateral action by the British government would be “undemocratic”.

“The protocol must be implemented with flexibility and pragmatism to take into account the concerns” of the unionist camp, he declared on BBC Radio 4. But if he took unilateral actions, in addition to “breaking the international law”, the British government “would be acting deliberately in an anti-democratic way, because 53 of the 90 elected members of the Northern Irish Assembly support the protocol”.

“Imminent threat”

On the other hand for David Frost, the ex-Mr. Brexit of the British government, “the government has no other option now but to act unilaterally to no longer apply all or part of the protocol”. “There is an imminent threat to our ability to govern Northern Ireland,” he wrote in the Conservative daily on Friday. The Telegraphbelieving that European reprisals, which raise fears of a trade war, would be “disproportionate”.

By keeping Northern Ireland in the European single market and customs union, the protocol aims to preserve peace by avoiding the return of a physical border between the British province and the Republic of Ireland, member of the EU. . According to Guardiana delegation of members of the American Congress is due to travel to London, Belfast, Brussels and Dublin in the coming days to reiterate the White House’s commitment to the peace agreement and the protocol.

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