The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Honorable Member of Parliament Brendan Lewis, met today with the leaders of the five major political parties in Northern Ireland; Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein; Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP; Naomi Long, Alliance; Doug Beatty, UUP; and Colum Eastwood, SDLP.
At all his meetings, the Secretary of State reiterated the need to respect the results of Thursday’s election and to restore the full functioning of the transferred institutions as soon as possible – both the executive branch and the assembly.
All parties agreed on the importance of maintaining political stability. The Secretary of State called on all party leaders to come together to form an executive branch as soon as possible, starting with the nomination of the speaker of the assembly.
The Secretary of State acknowledged that the Northern Ireland Protocol remains a clear barrier to political stability, and reaffirmed that the government will do its utmost to defend the Belfast agreement (Good Friday) in all its dimensions. He reiterated the government’s desire to resolve outstanding issues under an agreement with the EU, but reaffirmed that the government is ready to take further steps to address these issues if necessary.
He noted that the negotiations with the European Commission related to the Protocol are the responsibility of the British government and that they should not hinder the restoration of Stormont’s institutions and enable the executive to act for all the people of Northern Ireland.
He reiterated the importance of using the new provisions of the NI Act (ministers, elections and concerned petitions), which was adopted earlier this year, to ensure continuity in decision-making in the process of forming the executive branch. This ensures that existing Northern Ireland ministers can remain in their seats to oversee NI departments, allow legislation to progress and support the provision of vital public services.
Speaking after his meetings, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, MP Brendan Lewis, said:
“The leaders of the parties in Northern Ireland must unite to agree on a way to a stable and accountable government.
“The main priority of the British government remains to maintain peace and stability in Northern Ireland and to protect the Belfast Agreement (Good Friday) in all its directions. The current situation with the Protocol fundamentally undermines the Belfast Agreement (Good Friday) and creates an unacceptable situation in Northern Ireland. We will continue to push the EU to agree on important changes that are urgently needed, but we will not take anything from the table in our quest for these decisions.
“As I conveyed to the party leaders today, our collective focus should be on rebuilding Stormont’s institutions so that these newly elected representatives can come together and speak in the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland.
“I will remain in close contact with the party leaders in the coming days.”