Blair urges DUP to return to powersharing in Brexit intervention

Sir Tony Blair today urged the DUP to return to powersharing at Stormont in a fresh Brexit intervention. The former Labour prime minister was appearing alongside ex-US president Bill Clinton and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at a Queen’s University Belfast event hosted by ex-US secretary of state Hillary Clinton to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Speaking during the panel discussion, Sir Tony said Northern Ireland’s political leaders know in their “heart of hearts” what the right thing to do is and they should “just get on and do it”.

He said: “We know the peace isn’t perfect. We know the institutions have often been rocky and unstable as they are today.

“We know there’s still a lot of distrust and mistrust between the communities.

“But we also know that Northern Ireland is a much better place than it was before the Good Friday Agreement.

“And the only thing I would say to today’s leaders is I think when you stand back and you reflect, you know in your heart of hearts, what the right thing to do is, and you should just get on and do it.”

The Good Friday Agreement created powersharing institutions at Stormont that involve nationalists and unionists governing Northern Ireland together in a mandatory coalition arrangement.

While the pact largely ended the Troubles, which had claimed more than 3,600 lives since the late 1960s, it has failed to bring long-term political stability in the region and devolution has collapsed several times in the last two decades.

The anniversary comes amid another period of collapse with the DUP walking out in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The post-Brexit trading arrangement angered unionists as it led to economic barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Rishi Sunak recently struck his Windsor Framework with the EU in a bid to cut the red tape created by the protocol.

The DUP says the deal has gone some way to address its concerns but significant problems remain.

The party has made clear its boycott of the Northern Ireland Assembly will continue until it secures further assurances from the UK Government around sovereignty and the application of EU law in the region.

Mr Ahern said he deeply hoped that the DUP would allow the powersharing institutions to return.

He said the alternatives to the Good Friday Agreement, which largely ended Northern Ireland’s 30-year sectarian conflict, are “not good”.

Mr Ahern added: “So just let’s move forward and try and make this work.”

Mr Clinton told the conference that the 1998 peace deal came about because political leaders decided the “time was right to do the right thing”.

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