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US politicians ‘one-sided’ on Northern Ireland – Gordon Lyons


Gordon Lyons

Gordon Lyons

Gordon Lyons

DUP MLA Gordon Lyons has said issues his party has with the Northern Ireland protocol need to be dealt with "quickly" as he prepares to meet a congressional delegation from the US visiting the UK and Ireland this week.

The bipartisan delegation is being led by US congressman Richard Neal, who said on Sunday the the US will be "as unwavering as is necessary" in its support of the Good Friday Agreement amid heightened tensions over the protocol.

Mr Neal met with Liz Truss on Saturday and urged the UK to have "good faith" talks with the EU to find solutions to the protocol.

And on a visit to County Kerry in the Republic of Ireland on Sunday, Mr Neal described the United States as a "guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement".

"The Good Friday Agreement has worked, and it's worked quite well. We don't want to see it disturbed," he said.

Speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme, Mr Lyons said on Monday: "Rather than protecting the Good Friday Agreement and successor agreements, the protocol actually damages them," he said "We need this issue dealt with and it needs dealt with quickly."

Mr Lyons said Mr Neal "takes a different view" on the protocol and said he knows from previous meetings with the politician and US house speaker Nancy Pelosi that it "will not be an easy task" to convince them of the DUP's position. The DUP is, however, up for the task, he said.

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"It is fair to say they weren't interested and we're going to have a particular challenge with Congressman Neal,” he said. 

Mr Lyons said Mr Neal was a supporter of Irish unification and that he had worked closely with Friends of Sinn Fein.

"So yet again we're dealing with more American politicians who are one-sided and that adds to the challenges too," he added.

"I would like to see this sorted out by agreement with the EU, however we've been highlighting these issues for well over a year," he said. "But that hasn't happened. The EU have been painfully slow in recognising the problems so it's only right that the UK government says they will take action to protect Northern Ireland's place in the internal market."

Meanwhile on Monday, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said on social media she will meet with the US delegation today. She said: "Defence of the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts, respecting the democratic outcome of the Northern election and speedy establishment of the Executive are shared commitments of the USA and Ireland."

Earlier this week, Ms Pelosi urged both the UK and EU to continue talks to preserve "progress and stability" brought about by the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement.

"The Good Friday Accords are the bedrock of peace in Northern Ireland and a beacon of hope for the entire world," she said.

"It is deeply concerning that the United Kingdom now seeks to unilaterally discard the Northern Ireland Protocol, which preserves the important progress and stability forged by the Accords."

Ms Pelosi's comments were condemned by former Brexit minister Lord Frost who said the statement was "ignorant" of the realities in Northern Ireland.

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