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DUP MP Gregory Campbell accuses Beattie of throwing ‘massive dead cat on the table’ over Speaker intervention call


DUP MP Gregory Campbell.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell has said the suggestion by UUP leader Doug Beattie that the Government should "further override devolution” by installing a Speaker at the Assembly is “further evidence of his departure from reality”.

Earlier on Friday, Doug Beattie said Westminster should act to pass legislation which would see a Speaker at Stormont established despite the DUP refusing to nominate one.

Critical of that intervention, Mr Campbell said: “After a bad election Doug Beattie now seems to want to keep on digging.

"There has been more potential progress in resolving the protocol problem in the two weeks since the Unionist people voted the way they did, than in the two years since it was implemented.

"Rather than help resolve matters at the point where we are hopefully beginning to see some realism, he risks creating further problems.”

The East Londonderry MP added: “Earlier this week we met the NIO and I pointed out that it would not be in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland if the Government were to undertake actions that pushed Unionism further away. Doug Beattie's suggestion would do exactly that.

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“If the Government are finally contemplating moving in a direction that would assist not just Unionism, but wider society as well why would he try and throw a massive 'dead cat' on the table to try and deflect attention from what our Government are going to produce, analyse it to see if it offers the beginnings of a resolution?

“Doug’s suggestion whether planned or unplanned was foolish and naïve.”

The Ulster Unionist Party leader, when asked on BBC NI’s Talkback radio programme, said a move in the House of Commons to reform the rules around the formation of the Assembly would be “positive”.

“I think so, because of the good of the people here in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“The people here in Northern Ireland are suffering because of this cost-of-living crisis and that is not a strap line – that is a lived experience.

“There are things we could do about that if we had a Speaker. There are things we could be doing to try and help.

“I think we could do that just to get a Speaker going and therefore those who want to participate in government, to a limited degree, could do so. If we could do something on a limited basis that would be a positive.

“It is not just removing the DUP’s veto. It is to remove anybody’s veto. It is the DUP now, but going forward it could be any political party’s veto.” 

The DUP is currently blocking the re-establishment of Stormont's power-sharing institutions in protest at the protocol, which has created economic barriers on trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The party argue the issues over the post-Brexit trading arrangements mean the Assembly is not sustainable and the party has said they are awaiting moves by the UK Government to act on the protocol before they will participate in the institutions.

Mr Beattie said it could be a lengthy process to revive the Stormont Executive, but said the Assembly could restart in a limited way in a shorter period of time.

"I get a sense that this legislation, this unilateral action will probably be laid before Parliament in the first two weeks of June, and that may be enough for a (Stormont) speaker then to be nominated, and that allows us to do limited work... and what happens after that will depend on whether or not the DUP get the Executive up and running," he said.

"This could be a lengthy process to get the Executive up and running, but we could manage it in short time to at least get the Assembly moving in the next month, maybe two months.

"I have got nothing to suggest that that's the case, this doesn't sit with me, this sits with the Democratic Unionist Party.

"I speak for the Ulster Unionist Party and I'm just giving what I believe we should be doing - what we should be doing is getting our government up and running and once we've got our government up and running then deal with any of the issues we have in regards to the protocol.

"But the protocol is an issue and no matter which way we look at it, we are going to have to address it, We can't ignore it and we certainly can't go through circular conversations about the same thing every single time."

Mr Beattie met the Taoiseach alongside the other Stormont party leaders during a visit by the Irish leader to Belfast on Friday.

The UUP leader called on Micheal Martin to “use whatever influence he has” to ask the European Union to “deal with the issue of the Irish Sea Border”.

"We cannot continue replaying the same conversations. If it truly is the case that both the UK and EU are in the same place on what the landing zone is, then what is the delay in making progress?” said Mr Beattie.

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