Howlin responds to Donaldson – time to accept responsibility for your own failings

13 June 2019

The Leader of the Labour Party, Brendan Howlin TD, has responded to comments made by the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson MP at the IIEA this evening.

Deputy Howlin said:

“The Taoiseach’s position on the border backstop reflects the will of Dáil Éireann to preserve free and unfettered trade on this island following the UK’s departure from the EU, if that happens. The border backstop enjoys support across all of Ireland’s mainstream political parties.

“The suggestion from the right-wing Tory press that the backstop is politically motived are misplaced and pointless. The real problem is that the UK is in a conundrum of its own making where it no longer likes a proposal that it itself proposed to solve the problem of keeping Ireland’s border open.

“While I am reluctant to get into a slagging match with Jeremy Donaldson, there are a number of points that need to be made.

“Ireland is a fully-fledged member of the European Union. We recognise that the Irish border is also an EU frontier and we are satisfied that the EU is currently representing Ireland’s legitimate interests. We will not be codded into a big state versus small state narrative that Brexit Tories believe is our only role vis-à-vis our larger neighbour.

“For their own part, the DUP have some reflection to do. Northern Ireland did not vote to leave the European Union, and pro-EU sentiment was visible in the recent European election result. No amount of DUP positioning will hide its failure to represent the will of the people of Northern Ireland. 

“Despite Donaldson’s claim that ‘not a single credible voice in unionism supports the backstop in its current form’, the Ulster Farmers Union has called for the withdrawal agreement to be supported and leading businesspeople and representative organisations have lined up to call for the softest of Brexits for the sake of jobs and prosperity in Northern Ireland.

“If they are wedded to Brexit, the DUP should champion a version that involves customs union membership and single market alignment in recognition of both the position of Northern Ireland and the will of its people. While I personally don’t believe they support a hard Brexit, they have done little or nothing to rein in Tories who support it.

“In my view, Brexit no longer enjoys majority support in the United Kingdom. The DUP could help this issue go away by having any settlement referred to the British people for final determination.  The people escalating the risk of a no deal Brexit will do untold harm to Northern Ireland.”

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