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Sinn Fein told Conservatives on Tuesday to “stop pandering to the DUP” by threatening to rip up the Northern Ireland Protocol at a historic meeting in Parliament.
Mary Lou McDonald, the party leader who has predicted a referendum on Irish reunification in the next decade, accused Boris Johnson of using the row over the Brexit treaty to distract from partygate and the calls for his resignation.
"We've made the case very clearly that Boris Johnson needs to stop playing games, stop using Ireland as either a bargaining chip in this confrontation with the European system, or indeed as a distraction in his domestic affairs," she said before meeting Tory MPs.
The event was an unprecedented diplomatic effort from Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the IRA and a party that has always refused to take up its seats in Westminster.
The Bill would also stop future inquests and civil actions related to the Troubles, although it does not fully close the door to criminal prosecutions.
At a rare gathering with a cross-party group of MPs in Westminster on Tuesday night, Ms McDonald called on Tory backbenchers and Peers to speak out against the Prime Minister’s plan to rip up the Protocol.
“We currently have a full onslaught, a full attack against the Good Friday Agreement,” she told the meeting which was mostly attended by left-wing parliamentarians from Labour, the SNP and Plaid Cymru, as well as veteran Conservative Brexiteer Sir Bill Cash.
“And more alarmingly we have an administration, a Prime Minister at No 10 Downing Street who is playing fast and loose, a very dangerous game of brinkmanship, with all that has been achieved over the last quarter of a century.
“That is a most serious and a most grave situation that should call the attention of every member of the House of Commons and every peer in the House of Lords.”
During a speech that drew frequent applause from an audience that included ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his former frontbenchers John McDonnell, Richard Burgon and Rebecca Long-Bailey, she insisted Sinn Fein wants good relations with No 10.
She said: “This has to be challenged and not just we’d argue from the opposition benches. This ought to be challenged from within government itself because it is very, very wrong.
“We don’t want to be poking the eye or picking a fight with Boris Johnson or any of his colleagues but we are left with no option but to challenge this in the most vigorous terms.”
The meeting in Westminster was held after the families of Troubles victims told the Prime Minister the UK Government's controversial legacy legislation is "an affront to all modern standards of decency".
Protests also took place in Belfast and Londonderry as MPs debated the legacy plan in the House of Commons, which would offer immunity to people who are deemed to have cooperated with an information retrieval body.
Michelle O’Neill, the vice-president of Sinn Fein, said that most people in Northern Ireland support the Protocol, which created the Irish Sea border and introduced customs checks on British goods.
“The British Government needs to stop pandering to the DUP,” Ms O'Neill, who led Sinn Fein to a historic first majority in the May 5 elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, told the BBC.
“The DUP’s voice does not reflect the wider view at home,'' she said, pointing to the pro-Protocol majority in Stormont after the elections which will make her first minister if power-sharing is restored.
The DUP, which lost its majority, claims the Protocol, which prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland, is pushing up the cost of living and driving a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
It has refused to enter power-sharing in Stormont, and has blocked the appointment of a new Speaker to the Assembly until the Protocol is removed or replaced in UK-EU negotiations.
Ms O’Neill said the Northern Irish economy was outperforming the rest of the UK as a result of the Protocol, which gives Northern Ireland unique access to both the UK and EU markets.
“There's a lot of noise here in Britain in terms of the fact that the Protocol isn't working, but that's not the reality,” she said.
“Threatening to bring forward legislation to undermine international agreements, and take unilateral action, doesn't serve our purposes well.”
The Government says its preference is to negotiate big cuts in protocol checks with Brussels but warns it will take action to protect Northern Ireland’s place in the UK market if necessary.
It argues the treaty is having a chilling effect on British trade to Northern Ireland and that it is undermining the Good Friday Agreement because it does not have the consent of unionists.
“We need the executive formed. This is a matter of urgency and the idea that anybody within the British system would give cover to the DUP to prevent the formation of a government for us is unacceptable,” Ms McDonald told reporters at Westminster.
Without a functioning Assembly, Stormont is unable to use its devolved powers to tackle the cost of living and huge waiting times for the NHS.
Addressing Irish senators as part of a diplomatic visit to Ireland, Senior US Democrat Richard Neal warned that "any incautious move to undo the Protocol" would put the Good Friday Agreement at risk.
He accused London of “vagueness” over why it planned to override the Protocol and suggested the dispute was a “manufactured issue”.
"So, I think now it's up to London to help us all find a solution," he said.
The US has warned that Congress will not pass a US-UK free trade deal if Britain tears up the Protocol, which was agreed in 2019 and came into effect at 11pm on Dec 31 2020.
Brussels has said that any unilateral action would break international law and could trigger a trade war or the cancellation of the UK-EU free trade agreement.
It accuses the UK of failing to engage with proposals it made in October to cut the number of protocol checks in return for bolstered market surveillance to prove goods were not crossing into EU member Ireland.
Sinn Fein also had a meeting with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and praised the party for its defence of the Good Friday accords.