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Northern Ireland's DUP Leader Says United Ireland 'Is Just Not Where We Are'

13.02.2024 05:12

Belfast Agreement is concept where in divided society like Northern Ireland only cross community consensus works, says Jeffrey Donaldson.

Nationalism has not become dominant in Northern Ireland as the majority of its people are still in favor of remaining in the UK, the head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said Monday.

At an event in London, Jeffrey Donaldson said that with the Safeguarding the Union deal, "many of our objectives" have been achieved.

His remarks came after the DUP ended its boycott of the Northern Irish parliament, or Stormont, after agreeing to a new deal with the British government on post-Brexit trade rules.

Saying the DUP's objective has been to secure access to the "biggest" market, which is Great Britain, Donaldson said: "What we have achieved takes us a long way in that direction."

"Two years ago, it wasn't possible to buy British standard goods in many of our supermarkets in Northern Ireland...all of those goods are available in our supermarkets," he added.

He said post-Brexit checks on goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will be gone, despite the European Union saying in 2021 that the bloc is "not returning to the negotiating table (and) the protocols will not be negotiated."

However, Donaldson said the EU reopened the negotiations and changed the protocol, adding "we have made significant changes."

The Northern Ireland Protocol, the first trade deal with the EU after Brexit, was seeking checks on goods from Great Britain coming into Northern Ireland.

That led the DUP to boycott Northern Ireland's power-sharing administration at Stormont, creating a political deadlock.

Although it was amended by a new protocol in 2023 called the Windsor Framework, the DUP announced its opposition to the plan.

In response to a question about the Sinn Fein leadership's remarks on "Irish reunification," the DUP leader said Sinn Fein's dominance of nationalism does not mean that nationalism itself has become dominant in Northern Ireland.

Donaldson underlined that most people support remaining in the UK, recalling that Sinn Fein got less than 30% of the vote, "well below" a 50% majority.

Recalling Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald's remark that "a united Ireland is within touching distance," Donaldson said "she must have the longest arms on the island of Ireland, because that is just not where we are."

Belfast Agreement

Donaldson said the Belfast Agreement is a concept where in a divided society like Northern Ireland, it is "only a cross community consensus" that works.

The agreement was signed by then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and partly brokered by the US. It ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland also known as "the Troubles."

He noted that they are looking to find common ground and work together to build a better Northern Ireland that works for everyone.

Saying that in 2023, not a single person died as a result of political divisions in Northern Ireland, Donaldson stressed that this is a mark of the progress they have made.

He added, however, that they want to do more, noting that the first 25 years for Northern Ireland have been about consolidating the peace and there are two things they have to do for the next 25 years.

"Firstly, dealing with the legacy of our troubled times, which is going to be difficult and painful...and secondly, prosperity."

He also thanked British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for "his dedication and commitment" to Northern Ireland and for what he has helped achieve.

"I think that has been really important. Without that, we would not be where we are," he added.

In response to a question on whether they will work with Sinn Fein towards a cease-fire in Gaza, the DUP leader said he thinks cease-fires "do not work," adding the international community failed to push for the process.

"Our solution is not the solution for the Middle East, but there are key lessons that can be drawn from that experience," he noted.

Donaldson said that ultimately, it is the Israelis and Palestinians who have to make the moves and take the steps.

"It is my view that Hamas should release the hostages and that Israel should respond to that," he added. -

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