Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland parties split over Syria air strikes

By Staff Reporter

The air strikes on Syrian military facilities carried out in a joint operation by the US, UK and France have polarised Northern Ireland's parties.

The DUP has backed Prime Minister Theresa's May's decision to use force - although not without internal dissent.

The party's Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said: "Given the context of the recent international response to the use of a nerve agent in the UK, the clear targeted purpose of the strikes, and the repeated blocking by Russia of diplomatic solutions through the UN, we believe the Prime Minister was justified in standing with our American and French allies in this concerted action."

The DUP's support for Mrs May comes just days after one senior party MP said he thought the UK should not intervene in Syria. On Friday East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson told the Daily Mail: "Personally, I would vote not to take action. But I suspect that the party might take a different view. If this happens, I would listen to the arguments, but I don't think we should intervene."

Sinn Fein's foreign affairs spokesman Sean Crowe TD said his party was "saddened and appalled" by the attacks.

"There is nothing smart about this technology, it is designed to kill people on a massive scale and there is no justification for these attacks," he said.

"The US, Britain and France are not neutral, having armed and supported various protagonists.

"They have no credibility when it comes to peaceful settlements to conflicts in this region.

"They need to desist from their military interventionism."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the alleged chemical attacks by President Assad were appalling but that air strikes without a peace strategy would make the situation worse.

"The violence and bloodshed that is happening in Syria is horrific. Any military intervention threatens to escalate the conflict even further," he said.

Mr Eastwood said that the Prime Minister should have recalled Parliament to discuss the Syrian situation before military intervention was launched.

That is a view shared by the Ulster Unionist Party.

UUP MLA Steve Aiken MLA said that while the air strikes were the right thing to do, Parliament should have been recalled before action was taken.

"This isn't just about Syria. This has the potential to escalate into a wider conflict and we should be debating all those scenarios," he said.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said she was concerned air strikes took place without a clear strategy.

"I would also suggest there is an amount of hypocrisy around this decision, allegedly taken for humanitarian reasons, and question how it fits with then restricting access to the UK and US for Syrian refugees," she added.

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