Belfast Telegraph

Dodds hits out at Sinn Fein Brussels 'sideshow, while their MPs hide in Commons' canteen'

By Gareth Cross

DUP MEP Diane Dodds has launched an attack on Sinn Fein's leadership, saying this week's visit to Brussels was a "shout for relevance".

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald met chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels on Wedneday.

Speaking from Brussels Mrs McDonald said the EU would remain resolute on the Irish border backstop and that the DUP was out of sync with the rest of Northern Ireland on the issue of Brexit.

Mrs Dodds said that Sinn Fein had "kept its head down" during the Brexit referendum campaign and had spent months "scaremongering amongst border communities by building artificial checkpoints".

However Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson said it was hypocritical of the DUP to talk about reflecting the views of the people of Northern Ireland, when the majority was against the "Tory Brexit agenda".

Mrs Dodds also attacked Sinn Fein's abstentionist policy at Westminster. The party's seven MPs do not take their seats.

"Latterly Sinn Fein has exhausted its war chest of amateur dramatics and now struggles for relevance," the DUP MEP said.

"It is ironic that as the pivotal debate on the terms of our exit from the EU unfolds at Westminster, the republican leadership embarked on a cynical sideshow to lobby MEPs whilst their MPs hide in the House of Commons' canteen rather than sit in the Chamber.

"The people of Northern Ireland should be in no doubt where the real debate is taking place, Sinn Fein is silent. Where a handful of votes could make the difference, Sinn Fein’s seven seats lie vacant."

Mrs Dodds said that Sinn Fein were letting their constituents down and said the DUP would represent Northern Ireland during the vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit withdrawal deal next Tuesday.

"Instead of abdicating our responsibilities to the electorate the DUP will continue to use our influence - where it matters - to pursue the best possible deal for communities across our Province," she said.

"The Withdrawal Agreement threatens the integrity of the United Kingdom. It would irreparably weaken local trading ties with Great Britain and leave our economy tied to EU rules indefinitely with zero democratic input into how they are made. That is why we are calling on the Government to deal with the flawed backstop.

"Ultimately unlike Sinn Fein, the DUP’s MPs will be present on Tuesday to give their verdict and to stand up for Northern Ireland.”

Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson said that the DUP were acting "as cheerleaders for Brexit" even though the majority of people in Northern Ireland had voted against it.

"It is Dianne and the DUP who have been ignoring that democratic vote. If they think supporting Brexit is acting in the best interests then they need to take a reality check," the MEP said.

"Since the referendum, Sinn Fein has been engaging with the key players in the Brexit negotiations in Brussels as well as in London and Dublin.

"We have been reflecting the views of the people of the north and making the case that Brexit cannot be allowed to undermine the Good Friday Agreement or lead to any hardening of the border on the island of Ireland."

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