Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

DUP should not have championed Brexit if concerned over checks, says Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald said that if Arlene Foster is ‘concerned’ about checks on goods, she should not have championed Brexit.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald (Brian Lawless/PA)
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Elizabeth Arnold, PA Political Staff

If Arlene Foster is “concerned” about checks on goods between the mainland and Northern Ireland, she should not have “championed Brexit”, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has said.

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Her comments came after Boris Johnson was accused by the DUP leader of breaking his word over his commitment to protect the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

As the Prime Minister faced fresh questions over trade within the UK after Brexit, Mrs Foster said Government officials had told her there would need to be checks.

The island of Ireland will require special protections and special provisions and the British state has to honour that as per the Good Friday Agreement Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein

Responding, Ms McDonald said the island of Ireland would require “special protections and special provisions and the British state has to honour that as per the Good Friday Agreement”.

Asked if she agreed with the DUP leader’s comments on checks, Ms McDonald told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, we fundamentally disagree with her because we didn’t want Brexit, and if Arlene Foster is that concerned about checks on goods, well, then she shouldn’t have championed Brexit.

“Britain exiting the single market and the customs union means that of course there are going to be checks and tariffs and customs, not just with Ireland, but with other EU countries.

“And whether Arlene likes it or not, and whether the British political system likes it or not, Ireland is different, and whoever is in Number 10 Downing Street be very clear on this: the island of Ireland will require special protections and special provisions and the British state has to honour that as per the Good Friday Agreement.”

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DUP leader Arlene Foster (Brian Lawless/PA)

On her party not taking its seats in Westminster, she said: “It’s been a long, hard road for Ireland, for this island to extricate itself from the grip of the old colonial power, and the truth is that Westminster is not the forum in which Irish interests have ever been served.”

Asked if Sinn Fein votes could make the difference between Brexit or a referendum happening and it not happening in a close hung parliament, she said: “Sinn Fein MPs, or indeed Irish MPs, will not stop Brexit, that’s not going to happen…

“The simple facts are, whether we like them or not – and we are very much against Brexit, the north of Ireland has not consented to Brexit, but nonetheless there is a majority for it. That majority derives from a vote in England.”

On Monday, Mrs Foster told the Today programme that the DUP had been told by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officials before the PM announced his deal that there would be checks between the mainland and Northern Ireland.

She said: “I think it is right for the leadership of unionism in Northern Ireland to try to work with the prime minister of the day to get the best deal for Northern Ireland.

“We will always do that. We will continue to do that. I think it says more about the person who broke their word than me and the leadership of the … Democratic Unionist Party.”

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