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Geoffrey Donaldson backs devolution deal in power-sharing breakthrough at Stormont

Geoffrey Donaldson backs devolution deal in power-sharing breakthrough at Stormont

Written by Emily Jane Davies

01:07 30 January 2024, updated 02:52 30 January 2024

  • At a meeting last night, Sir Geoffrey confirmed that the party would regain power

The Democratic Unionist Party last night agreed to reinstate Northern Ireland's Parliament after two years of political deadlock caused by Brexit.

At a crucial meeting last night, Sir Geoffrey Donaldson confirmed the party would restore devolution in Northern Ireland if the government passed new legislation.

The DUP has been using its veto power to blockade devolved institutions at Stormont since February 2022 in protest against post-Brexit trading arrangements which have created trade barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The party has been engaged in lengthy talks with the government aimed at obtaining concessions on arrangements that would address its concerns over trade and sovereignty.

He said the legislation – approved by Westminster – would remove controls on goods moving within the UK and remaining in Northern Ireland
DUP Leader Sir Geoffrey, DUP Deputy Leader Gavin Robinson and Emma Little Pengelly

Sir Geoffrey told a press conference last night: “In February 2022, the DUP recalled the then First Minister as a result of the imposition of the Northern Ireland Protocol which did not have the support of elected representatives of unions in Northern Ireland.” '

We have warned that failure to address the Protocol, its imposition without consent and its devastating impact on the delicate political balance leads to an unsustainable situation.

He added: “After taking a strong and principled position, we were able to bring the UK government and the EU Commission into the negotiations.”

We have worked with the UK Government in recent negotiations to ensure that going forward, Northern Ireland has the best possible opportunity to address its short-term challenges and build long-term prosperity within the Union.

Read more – A breakthrough in power sharing in Northern Ireland? DUP leader Geoffrey Donaldson calls a meeting tonight to 'push the party to strike a £3bn deal on Stormont's return'

“Our aim was to secure conditions that would allow devolved government to return on a sustainable basis and where it could deliver real and meaningful improvement in the lives of all people in this part of the UK.”

He said the legislation – approved by Westminster – would remove controls on goods moving within the UK and remaining in Northern Ireland.

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He added that this would end “Northern Ireland automatically in accordance with future EU laws”.

Sir Geoffrey said he hoped the government could move quickly to implement legislative pledges it had made to his party, paving the way for Stormont's return.

He said the party's executive voted “decisively” to support the plan to restore powers at a lengthy meeting in Co Down on Monday evening.

He said: “Officers, the Assembly Group, the Parliamentary Group and the DUP Central Executive have now been briefed on all aspects of our negotiations between the UK Government and the DUP.”

“I am pleased to report that the party executive has now endorsed the proposals I put forward to them.”

He continued: “There will be legislation protecting the laws of the Union, which ensures unrestricted access for Northern Irish businesses to the rest of the UK.”

He said: “The party has concluded that, taking into account the binding commitments between the DUP and the UK Government which are fully and faithfully implemented as agreed, including introducing and passing new legislative measures in Parliament, the package of measures in its entirety provides a comprehensive solution.” . A basis for our party to nominate members to the NI Executive.

A massive march in Belfast heard calls for Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris to release wage bonuses for workers and also for the DUP to end its boycott of Stormont.
Pro-Union and anti-Brexit Irish maritime border posters were photographed near Larne Port near Belfast

Regardless of which party forms the next UK government, these measures will remain in place until after the next general election.

“I believe that with the faithful delivery of this package, hard work and dedication, we will be able to look back on this moment as a crucial time in which NI’s position within the union has been protected,” he said.

“Our position within the UK internal market has been restored.

He added: “When our grandchildren look back on this period, they will be able to say we had a just cause, we stood the ground, we restored balance and we secured a positive future for NI and its essential place in the UK union.” 'He finished.

He also condemned the spread of misinformation online about the measures before the proposals were published.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said the move was a “welcome and important step” and said, “We will stick to this agreement.”

He said: “I am grateful to Sir Geoffrey Donaldson and his colleagues for the constructive dialogue over the past months and to other political parties in Northern Ireland for the patience they have shown during this period.”

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“I am pleased that the DUP have agreed to accept the package of measures put forward by the UK Government and as a result they are prepared to return to the Northern Ireland Assembly and nominate representatives for the Northern Ireland Executive.

He added: “Sir Geoffrey Donaldson said this is subject to binding commitments between the DUP and the UK Government – I can confirm we will stick to that agreement.”

He added: “I believe now that all conditions are prepared for the return of the Assembly, and the parties that have the right to form an executive body will meet tomorrow to discuss these matters, and I hope that I will be able to finalize this agreement with the political parties as soon as possible.” '

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald (pictured) said she was optimistic Stormont could return before the next legislative deadline to form an administration.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said she was optimistic Stormont could return before the next legislative deadline to form an administration.

“I am optimistic having heard Geoffrey Donaldson's public announcement that we will see northern institutions back in operation before the February 8 deadline with a fully operational general assembly, executive and north-south bodies,” she said.

“Sinn Fein will now liaise with the parties and both governments to ensure we all press on now without delay.

“It is important that there is political stability to address the scale of the crisis across our public services.

“Let us now focus our minds on the job at hand and on the solutions needed to support the workers and families who want and deserve effective government.”

It comes 10 days after thousands of public sector workers took to the streets across Northern Ireland in the largest strike in the region's modern history.

A massive march in Belfast heard calls for Mr Heaton-Harris to release wage bonuses for workers and also for the DUP to end its boycott of Stormont.

Last week, in an impassioned speech at Westminster, Sir Geoffrey said he had received threats amid speculation about an impending deal. The DUP has reported the incidents to the police.

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Sinn Fein on Sunday called on the Democratic Unionist Party to end the “endless cycle” of its boycott of Stormont and return to power-sharing.

Party leader TD Pierce Doherty said it was time for the DUP to make a decision.

On Saturday, traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister, one of those calling on the DUP to continue the blockade, urged opponents of post-Brexit trade arrangements to stand firm.

“We've been here many times, there have been a lot of false dawns when it comes to the DUP, and the DUP really needs to end this siege of this Assembly and accept the fact that people in the Assembly elections (in May 2022) have voted for change and dynamics. “It changes and has changed in the north.”

“We have to get out of this endless cycle of their will, don't we?”

He added: “They should definitely jump, but the British government needs to stop facilitating them. They told us that the negotiations are over.”

“They (the DUP) need to go back to the Assembly. There is nothing more to talk about.

On Friday, senior DUP MLA and former party leader Edwin Poots criticized some other unionists who accused his party of being “traitors”.

He pointed out that his party extracted major concessions from the government.

He told BBC Radio Ulster: “Why did we do what we did for the last two years and then come back with nothing, people need to think about that.”

On Saturday, traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister, one of those calling on the DUP to maintain its blockade, urged opponents of post-Brexit trade arrangements to stand firm.

He said: “The union is facing a decisive moment.” “This is a moment of decision that will determine the course of Northern Ireland for years to come.”

“Either NI will initiate a transition out of the UK through unionists implementing the model designed for this purpose, namely the Protocol, or unions will hold the line and refuse to lay hands on their own destruction.”

“This is a decision so momentous that it transcends questions of party loyalty.”

He added: “If the worst happens and the DUP gives up the fight, everyone who sees the issues must stand together.”