Belfast Telegraph

DUP welcome Boris Johnson appointment - 'we need statesman not showman,' says Alliance

Boris Johnson sparks mixed reaction across political divide

Boris Johnson with DUP leader Arlene Foster at Parliament Buildings, Stormont
Boris Johnson with DUP leader Arlene Foster at Parliament Buildings, Stormont

Boris Johnson's divisive nature had led to a mixed reaction from Northern Ireland politicians after he was elected Tory leader.

Mr Johnson is set to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister on Wednesday after besting Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in the election.

DUP leader Arlene Foster congratulated Mr Johnson on his victory and said she was "looking forward to discussing our shared objectives of strengthening the union, delivering Brexit and restoring devolution".

The DUP will meet with Mr Johnson and his team in the coming days to discuss the renewal of the party's confidence and supply agreement with the Conservative government.   

The government currently relies on the support of the ten DUP MPs for a majority at Westminster.

Mr Johnson addressed the DUP party conference last November, calling for the Irish border backstop to be "junked" before performing a u-turn and voting for Mrs May's Brexit deal.

“I have spoken with Boris Johnson and congratulated him on becoming leader of the Conservative Party," Mrs Foster said.

"We discussed our shared objectives of strengthening every part of the Union, ensuring the 2016 referendum result is implemented and seeing devolution restored in Northern Ireland.

"The Confidence & Supply Agreement between the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party remains. That Agreement included a review between each Parliamentary session. This will take place over the coming weeks and will explore the policy priorities of both parties for the next Parliamentary session."

"I also look forward to welcoming Mr Johnson back to Northern Ireland shortly after becomes Prime Minister.”

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said: “Sinn Féin will work to protect our peace process and the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts, including the commitment to calling a referendum on Irish Unity.

“The British government has responsibilities and commitments under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and we will hold them to account.

“We will continue to stand up for Irish interests, for the majority of citizens in the north who voted on a cross-community basis to remain within the EU.

“We will continue to work with the Dublin government and the EU27 to protect Ireland from the catastrophic impact of the reckless Brexit being pursued by Boris Johnson and the hard Brexiteers.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that Mr Johnson's victory marked "a worrying step towards a hard no-deal Brexit and hard border in Ireland".

Mr Johnson has pledged the UK will leave the EU on the October 31 deadline, but said it would be "lunacy" to impose a hard border in Ireland.

While he has rejected the controversial Irish border backstop, Mr Johnson said he believed technological solutions could address the border issue.

“Johnson has coasted into Downing street on a wave of Brexit bluff and bluster. It wont be long until he crashes into the rocky reality that the European Union will not sacrifice the interests of Ireland to appease a man who has lied and slandered its institutions in an effort to secure power," the SDLP leader said.

“All parties in the north must now set our combined efforts to resisting the impulse of this administration to drive off the Brexit cliff edge."

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said that the UK needs a "statesman, not a showman".

"It is now vital as he takes up the reins as Prime Minister, he demonstrates a level of leadership and seriousness which has been lacking to date. At such a critical juncture, we need someone who is detail focused and sensitive to the complexity of the challenges ahead," the MEP said.

“To date he has failed to demonstrate any real understanding of the needs of Northern Ireland, particularly in the context of Brexit and especially in a no deal scenario - needs that require more than merely a ‘can do’ attitude to resolve.

“It's time to cut the bluff, bluster and bombastic rhetoric, and start to provide the kind of reassurance business and civic society needs. Whilst I remain sceptical he will do that, I wish him well and will be more than happy to be proved wrong.”

UUP leader Robin Swann called on Mr Johnson to work for the restoration of the Stormont Assembly.

"The Ulster Unionist Party is willing and able to work with Mr Johnson to ensure this happens but if that is unattainable in the short term, then he must move to ensure further critical decisions are taken by Westminster," the North Antrim MLA said.

Mr Swann urged the incoming Prime Minister to do "everything possible" to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

"I urge him not to allow nationalism in Northern Ireland or Scotland to exploit the current instability for selfish political interests," he said.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney congratulated Mr Johnson and said he was looking forward to working with him.

"We will work constructively with him and his government to maintain and strengthen British/Irish relations through the challenges of Brexit," the Tanaiste said.

Green Party leader Clare Bailey said that Mr Johnson had "no mandate from the people".

“This new Prime Minister is intent on a hard Brexit. The man who compared a border on the island of Ireland to the boundary between Islington and Camden cares littles about our economic, social and political future," the South Belfast MLA said.

“The reality is that Boris Johnson has no chance of commanding a majority in a Brexit ravaged Westminster.”

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Right Reverend Dr William Henry said that he hoped Mr Johnson would "take a keen and personal interest in the talks to restore devolution to Northern Ireland".

“The absence of devolved government continues to affect the lives of many of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our society," he said.

"Courageous and compassionate leadership is required to both consolidate, and build upon, the progress already made during the inter-party talks."

Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said that Mr Johnson "must hit he ground running" to secure a Brexit deal.

"A no-deal is simply not an option that should even be considered given the economic devastation it would cause Northern Ireland with the loss of 40,000 jobs," he said.

“Mr Johnson should take a hands-on role with the current political talks to restore devolution. We cannot continue much longer without a functioning government given the huge challenges ahead with education, business rates and infrastructure investment.

“We hope that the new Prime Minister will make an early visit to Northern Ireland and engage with the business community on all these issues.”

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