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DUP believes High Court ruling on NSMC boycott is ‘further proof’ Article 16 should be triggered

Sinn Fein northern leader Michelle O’Neill says ‘DUP play acting’ could jeopardise future funding


DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

The DUP believes a High Court ruling that the party’s boycott of north-south ministerial meetings is unlawful is “further proof” the conditions to trigger Article 16 have been met.

Mr Justice Scoffield declared on Monday that legal responsibilities have been frustrated by DUP ministers withdrawing from the cross-border conferences.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson pulled his ministers out of the north-south ministerial meetings in protest against the protocol.

Stopping short of ordering future attendance at this stage, Mr Justice Scoffield warned that further enforcement of powers remain available.

A spokesperson for the DUP has now called on the UK Government to trigger Article 16 if an “early resolution” cannot be achieved with the EU regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said on Thursday the EU was preparing to table proposals aimed at reducing the Irish Sea trade friction as a result of the protocol.

Welcoming the High Court ruling, Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill said the DUP must “do their jobs, act within the law, and stop impeding progress and hampering government business”.

The Deputy First Minister added that the North South Ministerial Council is due to agree €1bn worth of EU peace funding later this month, which should not be “jeopardised by DUP play acting”.

“It’s time to get on with doing the job that we are elected to do, which is working on behalf of everyone on this island to build a better future for workers, families and communities,” said Ms O’Neill.

If Article 16 is invoked, the DUP said it would “avoid a further deterioration in political and economic stability in Northern Ireland”.

Article 16 has been described as an “emergency brake” which allows either the UK or the EU to take unilateral action if the protocol is causing “serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist”, or diversion of trade.

TUV leader Jim Allister said the DUP must now choose whether to “climb down” from their boycott or resign from the Executive following the High Court ruling.

“By ceasing to be minister you cease to be under any obligation to operate north-south relations while east-west links are trashed,” he added.

“The union dismantling protocol partitions the UK and treats Great Britain as a third country. If one is a unionist and can only be a minister if you are party to that trashing the only honourable course is to resign.”

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon said it was now time for DUP ministers to “commit to upholding their legal obligations”.

“The politics of boycott, division and deadlock has failed people and politics here for far too long,” said the Infrastructure Minister.

“We don’t need another manufactured crisis – we need ministers committed to doing their jobs, working with people and parties across these islands and delivering for the people we represent.”

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson stated there must be “consequences” for the DUP’s boycott, including sanctions.

“However, I hope this will now lead the DUP to reconsider their move,” he continued.

“It is vital the institutions are allowed to function and not be subjected to repeated threats.

“The majority of MLAs want to get on with their jobs of working on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland, not have this constant instability put in front of them.”

Green Party leader Clare Bailey MLA said the DUP’s boycott was “never about what was best for the people of Northern Ireland”.

“The rule of law applies to everyone, including DUP ministers,” she stated. “I call on the DUP to end its unlawful boycott of NSMC meetings, remove its threat to collapse the devolved institutions, and get on with the job of governing Northern Ireland.”

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