Eastwood raises Poots' decision to halt checks and DUP threat to collapse Stormont with Johnson

Colum EastwoodColum Eastwood
Colum Eastwood
Colum Eastwood has written to Boris Johnson urging him to uphold international law after the north's agriculture minister Edwin Poots ordered a halt to agri-food checks at ports amid unconfirmed reports the DUP First Minister Paul Givan may be set to resign in protest at the Irish Protocol.

In a letter co-signed by the party's Deputy Leader Nichola Mallon, Mr. Eastwood urged the British Prime Minister 'as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and a signatory to the Withdrawal Agreement, including the provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol' to take 'necessary action to uphold international law'.

The missive was dispatched after the Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (AERA) told reporters yesterday that a 'decision to initiate or continue such checks could not be validly taken in the absence of Executive approval'.

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Mr. Poots said: "I have now issued a formal instruction to my permanent secretary to halt all checks that were not in place on December 31, 2020, from midnight tonight."

Speculation is rife, meanwhile, that the First Minister Paul Givan may be set to resign in protest at the Protocol.

The DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has been threatening action against the Withdrawal Agreement since October but has not acted. An Assembly election is scheduled for no later than May 5.

After sending the letter this morning Mr. Eastwood said: “The actions of the DUP leadership represent a gross betrayal of people in Northern Ireland. Whatever community you’re from, whatever your background or beliefs, no one benefits from this cynical, and totally predictable, electioneering stunt.

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“Resigning from government when people are struggling to provide for their families, heat their homes and deal with the cost of living tells you all you need to know about the DUP – for them the party will always come first and ordinary people come last.

“People deserve better than a choice between bad government or no government. That has been the cycle of the last fifteen years and it has delivered nothing but failure. It is time to break that cycle and offer people a different choice.

“We have written to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this morning to remind him of his obligations as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and a signatory to the Withdrawal Agreement. The party political interests of the DUP cannot be allowed to eclipse the interests of people waiting on hospital treatment, people in need of welfare mitigations, people who expect and deserve basic public services.”

SDLP Deputy Leader and Executive Minister Nichola Mallon MLA said: “This DUP drama has been concocted by Jeffrey Donaldson as a last desperate attempt to resuscitate their flagging poll numbers ahead of an Assembly election in May. We’ve come to expect shameless stunts from the DUP but putting ordinary people in the firing line is unforgivable.

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“What message does this send to thousands of people on hospital waiting lists? What does it say to parents desperately trying to get additional support for their children? The selfishness is astounding.

“I am in the Executive fighting for people every day on behalf of the SDLP. It is so infuriating that others are only in it for themselves. We will continue to put people first and we will robustly challenge the actions of the DUP.”