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DUP to take part in latest North-South discussions

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Talks: Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says issues such as Covid can be discussed. Credit: Peter Morrison

Talks: Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says issues such as Covid can be discussed. Credit: Peter Morrison

Talks: Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says issues such as Covid can be discussed. Credit: Peter Morrison

The DUP has said it will take part in a virtual meeting with Irish ministers today because the Northern Ireland Protocol is not up for discussion.

Confusion within the party over whether it was boycotting meetings of the North-South Ministerial Council played a part in the downfall of Arlene Foster.

But new leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said that because the Protocol is not on today’s agenda, other issues, such as Covid, can be discussed.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin will host the 26th plenary meeting of the cross-border body. He will be joined by the Tanaiste and members of the Irish Cabinet, who will meet collectively with the Executive, led by First Minister Paul Givan and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.

Nationalist ministers had sought legal advice after the DUP did not attend some previous meetings, meaning they could not proceed.

In February, the DUP said it would “send a strong signal to the government of the Republic of Ireland that north-south relationships are also impacted by the implementation of a protocol which they supported”.

Some DUP ministers did not attend subsequent meetings, although Mrs Foster insisted there was no boycott and attended one herself in May. Some of the MLAs who signed a vote of no-confidence in her leadership had previously expressed concerns about DUP involvement in north-south discussions.

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But Sir Jeffrey said that “there is no part” of today’s meeting “which will consider papers or take decisions relating to the Northern Ireland Protocol”.

The DUP leader said the Irish Sea border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain "must go". The Irish Government in particular need to understand that the more harm is done to our relationship with the rest of the UK, the more harm will be done to our relationship with them,” he added.

“In contrast, real progress on the protocol over the coming weeks would see an improved environment for North-South relationships. Therefore, everyone should want to see swift progress towards durable and lasting solutions.”

A planned meeting of the NSMC was cancelled on June 18 amid the turmoil surrounding Edwin Poots’s dramatic resignation as DUP leader the night before.


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