East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson has said SDLP criticism of the Union Connectivity Review and to a Whitehall Department opening an office in Belfast appears driven only by narrow nationalism.
Mr Robinson said, "The response over the last few days from Nichola Mallon and other SDLP representatives has been disappointing, but unfortunately unsurprising. The Union Connectivity Review is about more than one feasibility study, rather it includes a focus on connections within Northern Ireland and improving existing links which are important to trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The SDLP reaction to this appears based on little more than narrow nationalism. That seems to be the only explanation for an Infrastructure Minister so stridently opposing the idea of improving our infrastructure. It is hardly surprising that the UK government also has national priorities and will want to work with devolved regions to benefit everyone in all parts of the UK.
There were no concerns outlined by the SDLP in relation to the 'Shared Island Unit' announced by the Republic of Ireland and funding which may flow from it. They oppose an office representing part of our national government, yet believed it was "necessary" to have an office representing the EU in Belfast.
It is perfectly clear in what areas the devolved administration here in Northern Ireland has responsibility and decides both the priorities and policies for. The only time when this has not been the case of course was when Nichola Mallon and others were actively calling on the UK Government to legislate within an area that was and is clearly a devolved matter. Whilst there are complaints now about officials being "parachuted in" there was no such qualms about having laws parachuted in.
When Nichola Mallon talks about trying to work in the common interest then that needs to go beyond lecturing others. It's not a surprise to anyone that the SDLP doesn't like the current Prime Minister or the Government. However, you do not have to like or agree with the Government to work constructively and in the common interest of everyone in Northern Ireland. Its deeply disappointing there has been no evidence of any such desire in recent days."