'Get On A Plane To Belfast' Boris Johnson Told Amid Northern Ireland Political Crisis

“It is absurd that the prime minister of our United Kingdom has to be reminded to get on a plane to Belfast in this situation," Labour's Peter Kyle said.
Johnson and Kyle
Johnson and Kyle
HuffPost UK

Boris Johnson is “too distracted by scandals” to deal with Northern Ireland’s political crisis, Labour said today.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle said the prime minister was “singing to 70′s disco” while Stormont descended into crisis.

Last week the DUP’s Paul Givan resigned as first minister in protest at the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.

The step also automatically removed Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill from her position as deputy first minister and left NI without a functioning executive.

Kyle told HuffPost UK that the prime minister must take personal control of the situation.

“Boris Johnson has been too distracted by scandals of his own making to notice the dire straits of politics in Northern Ireland,” he said.

In a reference to the revelation that the PM sang Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ to his new communications director Guto Harri, Kyle went on: “Singing 70’s disco to his new team whilst Stormont descended into crisis tells us all we need to know about the reckless way he approaches his job.

“It is absurd that the prime minister of our United Kingdom has to be reminded to get on a plane to Belfast in this situation.

“When there, unlike his foreign secretary, he should meet all party leaders and use the weight of his office to create the conditions for dialogue, common ground and progress.”

The Northern Ireland Protocol is part of the UK government’s Brexit deal that keeps NI aligned with the EU single market for goods as a means of retaining an open Irish border.

However, it has resulted in additional checks for goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, prompting unionist criticism and Givan’s decision to resign.

Tory former NI secretary Julian Smith described the latest power-sharing crisis as a “deeply depressing state of affairs”.

Meanwhile, the DUP’s leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson called on Johnson to “do what other prime ministers did” and prioritise NI, instead of being distracted by controversies in Downing Street.

Donaldson called on Johnson to “reach out”, telling Sky News: “We can’t go on with the situation where serious problems like we have here in Northern Ireland are not getting the attention they deserve.”

Northern Ireland minister Conor Burns has urged the DUP to return to the Stormont power-sharing executive, saying “stable governance” was needed.

He made the remarks as legislation which will protect the assembly from collapse passed its final stage at Westminster.

The bill will allow for the NI assembly to continue without a functioning executive for at least six months.

During prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, DUP MP Ian Paisley told the PM the protocol had “zero support from Unionists”.

He asked: “Does the prime minister accept that he has now responsibility to bring forward a solution that unites the people of Northern Ireland and bring forward a solution that saves the union that has been undermined by it?”

Johnson replied: “I will, I agree with him completely that there must be a solution that commands cross-community support and, at the moment, there is no doubt that the balance of the Good Friday Agreement is being upset by the way the protocol is being operated.

“And we need to fix it and that’s what we’re going to do, and if our friends weren’t to agree then of course, we will, as I said earlier on, of course we will implement Article 16.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “The prime minister is entirely focused on delivering for the people of Northern Ireland. From towns and cities across the region receiving £617 million of investment through City and Growth Deals, to guaranteed £400 million through the New Deal for Northern Ireland, the UK government is committed to ensuring Northern Ireland is a great place to live, work and invest.

“Our immediate priority is to restore political stability at the earliest possible moment, so the executive can continue to deliver for all communities

“The Northern Ireland Protocol was designed to protect the peace process and respect all communities in Northern Ireland. It is doing the opposite and placing unnecessary burdens on NI businesses.

“It is the UK government’s absolute priority to fix the many flaws in the protocol and safeguard peace in Northern Ireland, as well as supporting businesses.”


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