Belfast Telegraph

Irony Sinn Fein want Westminster to legislate on Northern Ireland, says Donaldson

British Government have responsibility, says Sinn Fein

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

The DUP has said there is an "irony" in Sinn Fein wanting the British Government to legislate on Northern Ireland matters and Tuesday's move to introduce laws on same-sex marriage will de-incentivise the republican party to restore devolution.

Sinn Fein, however, dismissed the suggestion saying - while it was not their preference - the British Government had a responsibility through the Good Friday Agreement to deliver on rights if the devolved institutions were not working. And it was willing to restore devolution should a deal be agreed.

On Tuesday the DUP voted against moves to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland liberalise abortion laws in the Commons. Both were overwhelming endorsed by MPs. It means should devolution not be restored by October 21 then same-sex marriage will be introduced in Northern Ireland.

DUP chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the matters should be dealt with in a restored Stormont.

He told the BBC: "There is very little incentive for Sinn Fein to restore devolution because they have said to the British Government, 'well you legislate in these areas'

"It's quite ironic, for an Irish republican party to argue the British parliament is the proper place to deal with very sensitive legislation, very sensitive matters.

"We believe the whole purpose of devolution is to allow the different parts of the United Kingdom to create laws that are appropriate for that part of the country. I think this undermines the prospect now of seeing devolution restored.

"We want to see devolution. We would much rather prefer these matters were dealt with by locally elected representatives at Stormont who can bring forward laws that are appropriate to Northern Ireland."

Sir Jeffrey it was "nonsense" to suggest the Commons move somehow got the DUP off the hook on issues which were a barrier to restoring devolution.

He continued: "The best place to do this is at the Assembly... I don't think this debate is over."

He said he would work with whoever was the next prime minister but said it would be impossible for any future Tory leader to give any assurances on reversing the decision as the matter would be subject to a free vote in the Commons and therefore outside the ability of a government to direct its MPs.

Westminster has responsibility to legislate for these matters. Conor Murphy

Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy said there was an onus on the British Government to act in Stormont's absence.

"The government with jurisdiction has a responsibility for delivering rights if devolved institution is denying those rights," he said.

"[The DUP] unfortunately over the last number of years have denied a series of rights. Not just on marriage equality but on language and legacy matters.

"What we have been working on - and bear in mind we were the ones that made a deal last February - we were the ones prepared to deliver a deal and the DUP walked away.

"In its absence - and if the DUP continue to deny rights - Westminster has responsibility to legislate for these matters. We have always been clear on that.

"It is not our preference but it is clearly in the Good Friday Agreement."

Mr Murphy said it was not the government's original intention to legislate on the matter and it was instead confronted by their "failure" to live up to their responsibilities in the Good Friday Agreement by MPs.

"I hope if the DUP learning anything from this lesson is that they are running out of road where they have been calling the whip hand in Westminster.

"They are on the wrong side of this argument in Ireland and Britain and they need to get back into an institution on the basis of rights and deliver on a whole range of issues."

He said the preference was to get devolution working and if an agreement was possible in the coming weeks, they would agree to restore the institutions.

"I hope the DUP recognise society has moved on and if they want to create the type of society where young people want to stay in this country, where firms want to invest then they want to create an open democratic and progressive society that rest of these islands have moved forward to be in and stop holding back the delivering of rights in this part of Ireland."

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