NIO policy the problem not the personality, says Elisha McCallion following Julian Smith appointment

Elisha McCallion.
Elisha McCallion.

The Foyle MP Elisha McCallion has said the personality of the British Secretary of State is largely irrelevant and that London's Irish policy must change if there is to be any progress on the restoration of the power-sharing institutions agreed under the Good Friday Agreement and its successor accords.

She was reacting to the appointment of the former British Government chief whip Julian Smith as Secretary of State for the North on Wednesday.

“The major problem within the Northern Ireland Office is the policy it implements rather than the personality that fronts it.

“If Julian Smith continues to follow flawed and failed policies then he will fail like the previous incumbent and the one before that," she said.

The Foyle MP said it seemed likely that the MP, who represents the Skipton and Ripon constituency in North Yorkshire, would continue the Conservative Party's close coalition with the DUP established under their confidence and supply deal in 2017.

“Unfortunately, Julian Smith doesn’t exactly inspire confidence given that his only interest in the North to date seems to have been to attend the DUP conference.

“What we need to see is a change of approach from the British Government.

“Successive British administrations have refused to honour agreements or to resolve the issues of the past while imposing austerity and Brexit against the wishes and best interests of the people.

“Boris Johnson’s party abandoned the rigorous impartiality demanded by the Good Friday Agreement in order to enter into a self-serving pact with the DUP.

“That has proved to be a toxic partnership for our political process with the British Government acquiescing to a denial of rights and equality that would never be tolerated in their own country," she said.

Mrs. McCallion said the NIO and Downing Street needed to keep their commitments under the GFA.

“A change in these failed policies is what is now required and it is long past time that the British Government began taking its obligations to the peace and political process in Ireland seriously.

“This requires the implementation of past agreements and an end to the DUP’s veto on rights and equality which is preventing the restoration of the power-sharing institutions,” she said.