Gavin Robinson sees ‘no circumstances’ where DUP would pull plug on Stormont again

-Credit: (Image: PRESS EYE)
-Credit: (Image: PRESS EYE)


The leader of the DUP has said he sees no circumstances where his party would pull the plug on Stormont devolution again.

Gavin Robinson also rejected suggestions he was rewriting history in respect of the DUP’s support for the UK Government deal on post-Brexit trade that saw his party end its two-year blockade of the powersharing institutions in February.

Since becoming leader, Mr Robinson has moved to address concerns held by some unionists and loyalists that his party oversold the Government’s Safeguarding the Union command paper by overstating the degree to which it had removed Brexit barriers on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

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Mr Robinson has said the DUP should have responded to the command paper with more “cautious realism”. The DUP used its veto power to collapse Stormont in 2022 in protest at post-Brexit trading arrangements.

With Sinn Fein having used its veto to bring down devolution in 2017 – a governance vacuum that lasted three years – Stormont has been in cold storage for five of the last seven years.

In a pre-election interview on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme, Mr Robinson said he would have taken the same decision to collapse Stormont two years ago if he had been leader then.

He was then asked whether he would resort to that nuclear option again.

“I see no circumstances where we would travail that path,” he replied.

“Devolution is a benefit of Northern Ireland. I believe in devolution.”

He added: “I don’t envisage those circumstances at all, let me be very clear. I don’t envisage circumstances where others would walk away. I am delighted that it’s back.”

Mr Robinson said no one was talking about the potential of another collapse since devolution has returned.

“You don’t hear anyone suggesting that devolution should be in some way in jeopardy,” he said.

“People are pleased that devolved government is back and, for all the challenges that are associated with that, it’s a good thing, a positive thing for Northern Ireland and it was the right step forward.”

Challenged on whether he was resetting the DUP’s stance in relation to the Safeguarding the Union paper, Mr Robinson insisted he had been consistent in his messaging since he first became interim leader in March.

“I don’t need to rewrite history, because I’m giving you the answer today that I gave you three months ago,” he said, as he insisted the deal remained a “work in progress”.

Mr Robinson succeeded former DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson who quit in March after being arrested and charged with historical sexual offences – charges he denies.

The new leader said it was hard to determine if the high-profile court case involving Donaldson would affect the DUP’s vote in the General Election. However, he said many voters he had spoken to recognised it was “not a political story”.

He characterised as pathetic any rivals who might choose to use the case against the party on the campaign trail.

“I don’t doubt there are some people who will use this poorly and pathetically for party political advantage,” he said.

“There’s no doubt it will happen but it’s not what I see and hear when I’m out talking to ordinary people, I don’t get a sense they see this as a problem for us politically. It’s not something they’re holding against my colleagues or I, because it doesn’t involve us.”

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