Sir Jeffrey: Respect & fairness are reasonable requests

Commenting after addressing an anti-Protocol rally at Dromore Orange Hall on Thursday evening, DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP said:

‘‘The Irish Sea border represents the single greatest threat to Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom in a generation. The presence of trade barriers within our own country has the grave potential to succeed where decades of terrorism failed, by driving an irrevocable wedge between Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK.

The EU say one of the primary purposes of the protocol is to protect the political institutions created by the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement. Yet, the protocol is in fact destabilising those institutions, with both the North South Ministerial Council and the Executive no longer fully functioning. If the EU really care about political stability in Northern Ireland, then they should act immediately to resolve the problems created by the protocol.

The relentless pursuit of these arrangements without the consent of unionists or the support of any Unionist elected representative is a serious threat to future stability in Northern Ireland. Recent gains in Northern Ireland have been achieved on the basis of consensus and respect for both traditions. Such respect seems to have vanished into thin air with the implementation of the Protocol. It is ironic that the Secretary of State now condemns the lack of an Executive to make decisions when he has proven himself happy to override devolution on key issues.

All I ask for is respect and fairness. Those are perfectly reasonable requests.

Unionism has stood together against the Irish Sea border. We need to ensure this translates to the ballot box, to transfers between unionist candidates in order to maximise unionist representation in the next Assembly.

I want to build a better Northern Ireland; to tackle waiting lists and the cost of living while giving our young people more and better opportunities in life. However, instead of being able to focus on those key issues the Protocol is draining our economy of £2.5million every day. That’s only part of its full devastation, with the number of grace periods reaching double figures and £500m Government support due to come to an end.

This situation cannot go on. Unionism has been patient and has been reasonable. It is entirely reasonable to ask that cross-community protections should be used by unionists as well as nationalists. The days of Unionists being seen and not heard are over.’’

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