Sammy Wilson: EU used and abused Northern Ireland
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Northern Ireland’s Executive collapsed earlier this month when the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) pulled out First Minister Paul Givan in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has created trade barriers between the province and the rest of the UK. The administration has since operated in shadow format and cannot make any significant decisions.
Disagreement between political parties in Northern Ireland has led to deadlock ahead of Assembly elections in May with republican party Sinn Fein tipped to secure the largest share of the vote.
The executive is jointly chaired by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister who are nominated by the largest and second largest parties in the Assembly.
However, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood warned on Friday the only way a functioning Northern Ireland executive will be reconstituted after the Assembly election is if the DUP wins.
Asked about the prospects of a properly functioning executive being reformed after May’s Assembly election, he told the PA news agency: “I think the reality is that (DUP leader) Jeffrey Donaldson won’t appoint a deputy First Minister.
“The only way there’ll be an executive after an election is if the DUP win – that’s the most undemocratic thing I’ve ever heard, particularly because it doesn’t matter who the First Minister is. The first and deputy first minister are joint first ministers – they have exactly the same power.
“So it’s undemocratic. It’s a futile exercise in my view and it’ll end in nobody dealing with the real crisis out there, which is people’s bills going through the roof and the longest waiting lists of probably any democratic country in the western world.”
The chaos led Sandra Chapman, a columnist with Northern Ireland daily The News Letter, to pronounce that EU colonialism and the Protocol will not feed hungry families.
She wrote: “Rights are fine and dandy but getting food to families who can barely afford to feed their children is, to me, far more important, particularly in our current crisis which shows no sign of being sorted any time soon.”
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She described fuel prices as extortionate and warned shop prices can only rise, adding: “But, hey, by the sound of some of our politicians, surely nothing is more important than getting rid of the Protocol?”
Ms Chapman said: “Our politicians, even their like throughout the rest of the UK, are in a total tizzy about how to move forward.”
At an anti-Protocol rally organised by the Orange Order in Dromore, County Down, this week, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said it represents the “single greatest threat to Northern Ireland’s place in the UK in a generation”.
Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party, told the rally the Protocol is “incompatible” with Northern Ireland’s position within the UK.
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He said: “No unionist worthy of the name can ever accept or implement it. Its economic mischief is dire, but its constitutional mischief is terminal to the union.
“Its clear purpose is to build Irish unity through the stepping stone of an all-island economy, whereby Northern Ireland’s alignment to and affiliation with GB is broken and the Irish unification anticipated in the Belfast Agreement is achieved.
“That is why I have always said, unionists either kill the Protocol or it will kill the union.”
Speaking at Stormont, Mr Allister said MLAs would have much to say in a scheduled debate on human rights, but would have nothing to say about EU colonialism which he described as the “biggest present travesty of political rights affecting Northern Ireland”.
Ms Chapman commented: “Our elected representatives were informed this week by Jim Allister that ‘EU colonialism’ is one of the biggest rights issues facing Northern Ireland today.
“He may be right but families need affordable food now so maybe this subject could go on the back burner for a while.”
New data showed this week that more than three in four adults in the UK have seen their cost of living increase in the past month.
The Office for National Statistics said 76 percent of those questioned reported a rise in the cost of living in the 20 days between February 3 and 13.
Food prices, higher energy bills and increased fuel prices were all highlighted as major factors, coming in a week when petrol prices hit record highs.
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