What NI politicans had to say after new Prime Minister's first official visit to Stormont

Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly Edwin Poots MLA pictured with The Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Keir Starmer MP during their visit to Parliament Buildings, Stormont.
-Credit: (Image: William Cherry/Presseye)


The five main parties in Northern Ireland have welcomed a "new dawn" as Sir Keir Starmer made his first official visit to the region since taking up office last week. The Prime Minister flew into Northern Ireland last night where he met with the Chief Constable of the PSNI, John Boucher.

This morning, Sir Keir Starmer began by meeting the First and deputy First Minister at Stormont Castle before travelling the short distance to Parliament Buildings where he held separate meetings with delegations from the five main political parties.

The parties appeared to have warm relations with the Labour Prime Minister as they emerged from their meetings to update the press.

Read more: New Prime Minister refuses to rule out border poll during first visit to Northern Ireland

Read more: Casement Park will be built one way or another, insists new Northern Ireland Secretary Hilary Benn

Sinn Féin Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald met the Prime Minister alongside First Minister Michelle O'Neill and MPs Pat Cullen and John Finucane. Speaking to the media afterwards, the Sinn Féin president welcomed Sir Keir's election and said that they had plenty to discuss.

"We have had a very constructive, very friendly meeting with the new Prime Minister. We have discussed with him all the issues of concern but also of the opportunities that now present themselves," Ms McDonald said.

"Clearly the issues around the financial sustainability of the North, the financing of public services is a matter of ongoing concern for all of us. Issues around the legacy legislation, we very much welcome the commitment to repeal that and we also welcome the very firm assurances in respect of Casement Park and we expect to see progress on that matter in the nearer future. It only makes sense that we grasp the opportunity in part to host the Euros here in the North of Ireland."

Ms McDonald said that her party also raised the issue of Palestine and the "catastrophic" situation in Gaza and urged him to follow the Dublin government by officially recognising the Palestinian state.

"We also raised the issue of immigration. There is an ongoing need for arrangements and agreement between Dublin and London in respect of safe returns of asylum seekers and we were very pleased to hear an open and constructive approach from the British Prime Minister in that regard."

(left to right) Northern Ireland Secretary Hilary Benn, First Minister Michelle O'Neill, deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly and Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer meeting at Stormont Caste, during the PM's tour of the UK following Labour's victory in the 2024 General Election. -Credit:Niall Carson/PA Wire
(left to right) Northern Ireland Secretary Hilary Benn, First Minister Michelle O'Neill, deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly and Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer meeting at Stormont Caste, during the PM's tour of the UK following Labour's victory in the 2024 General Election. -Credit:Niall Carson/PA Wire

DUP leader Gavin Robinson said that his party had a "very productive" meeting with the new Prime Minister and that he believed his party had allies within the Labour Party.

"We had the opportunity not only to talk to him about the importance of devolution in Northern Ireland but the process itself and the need for a proactive British Government who is going to nurture relationships within Northern Ireland," he said.

"We talked to him about the ongoing challenges to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland. That involves a request for investment in health, stabilising public services more generally and making sure that key components of our economy are well looked after including the significant jobs within Spirit Aerospace and Harland and Wolff"

Gavin Robinson said that he was "delighted" to see the Prime Minister and that he had an "incredible result" in the election.

"[Keir Starmer] is somebody who knows Northern Ireland, knows the legacy of the Labour Party when it comes to Northern Ireland, knows the importance of building community cohesion across the divide in Northern Ireland and what makes this place work so I believe we have a good relationship with Keir Starmer."

The new Prime Minister Keir Starmer pictured at Stormont Castle on Monday morning -Credit:Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye
The new Prime Minister Keir Starmer pictured at Stormont Castle on Monday morning -Credit:Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye

In a brief statement and without taking any questions from the press, Alliance leader Naomi Long said that she had a "very constructive" meeting with the Prime Minister.

"The Prime Minister was very keen to say that he wants to increase stability across the UK and we of course stressed to him for stability to exist in Northern Ireland, we will need both fiscal and political reform as a baseline.

"We also had the opportunity to raise with him the importance of impartiality of government in terms of it's engagement with local parties and the Assembly and I think that he understands how important that is given his history in Northern Ireland. It also gave us an opportunity to talk to him further about some pressing issues.

"In particular, I raised the issue of legacy and Andrew [Muir], who was there as Minister was concerned around the Windsor Framework and its implementation and ensuring that is dramatised. We also discussed some pressing issues in terms of the wider picture. Issues for example around Harland and Wolff, issues around Spirit Aerospace and obviously Casement Park."

Naomi said that she hoped the meetings would mark a "new start" in terms of relationships between Belfast and London and London and Dublin, describing the previous government as leaving a "toxic legacy" that she hopes will be reversed.

Prime Minister Keir Starmer arrives at Belfast City Airport -Credit:Jacob Bushe
Prime Minister Keir Starmer arrives at Belfast City Airport -Credit:Jacob Bushe

The UUP 's Doug Beattie, alongside newly elected MP for South Antrim, Robin Swann, Health Minister Mike Nesbitt and the party's chair, former Councillor Jill McAuley, told the press that his party were allowed just ten minutes with the Prime Minister but he described it as "a really good but brief" first meeting.

"He was very positive when we spoke to him. Our big priority was public services but in particular health and how we can work to improve the health outcomes here in Northern Ireland, what we need to do to improve those health outcomes and that was a degree of what we focused on," Mr Beattie said.

"We also spoke about legacy and his plans for legacy, the repealing of the Legacy Act and how they intend to do that. You can imagine it was a short ten minutes with the Prime Minister. We see it as the opportunity to build relationships and we already have good relationships with the Prime Minister's team, particularly with Sue Gray who was with him."

Meanwhile, the SDLP 's Colum Eastwood described "a collective sigh of relief to see the back of the Tory party" and suggested that the incoming Labour government was a "new dawn".

"We are very happy that the Labour Party have taken over control of the British Government. Keir Starmer is somebody who gets it, and who understands this place. He has been here many times, he worked here and he knew the issues before we even raised them.

"In saying that, we still raised them. This place needs more money to function, our health service is at a point of collapse and it can't survive much longer without a proper injection of funding. Followed of course by real decision making [in Stormont]. We also talked about Casement Park. It needs to be built as soon as possible, particularly as we have the Euros coming up, the issue of legacy which he knows very well and also we talked about the need to reform the institutions of this place because we can no longer have a situation where the parties are prepared to pull the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement down when they don't get their way."

Following his meetings at Stormont, the Prime Minister flew to Wales where he is due to meet representatives of the Welsh Assembly before flying to Washington DC for the NATO summit later this week.

For all the latest news, visit the Belfast Live homepage here and sign up to our politics newsletter here.