Stormont powersharing not at risk under my leadership, says Poots

·3-min read

Edwin Poots has insisted Stormont powersharing will not be at risk under his leadership of the DUP.

Mr Poots reiterated his determination to get rid of Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol but said he had “no intention whatsoever” of endangering devolution.

The incoming DUP leader also said he wanted to see outstanding commitments in the deal to restore powersharing in 2020 honoured, including legislation on the Irish language and the full implementation of the Military Covenant in Northern Ireland.

Some within unionism and loyalism have suggested the DUP should be prepared to bring down the institutions if new post-Brexit trading arrangements are not removed.

The party has also faced calls to block planned Irish language laws while the political impasse over the protocol remains.

Mr Poots said he remained committed to all elements of the 2020 New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) deal.

In an interview with the PA news agency, Mr Poots said: “There’s no risk to the institutions coming from Edwin Poots.

“The damage that was done to the institutions historically has been from Sinn Fein. They collapsed them for three years from 2016 to 2019.

“That is something that was hugely divisive, did massive damage to the health service, because our waiting lists spiralled in that period and they would need to reflect if that is a route that they wish to go down.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis (Rebecca Black/PA)

“I have no intention whatsoever of taking any actions that will damage institutions here in the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

Asked if he stood by the commitments his party had made in the NDNA agreement, including legislation for Irish language speakers, Mr Poots replied: “I wish to see all NDNA commitments fulfilled, including the Military Covenant.”

His interview with PA came after a meeting with Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis in Belfast on Tuesday morning.

Mr Poots had requested the face-to-face meeting with Mr Lewis to discuss the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The Lagan Valley MLA has said removing the protocol, which governs Irish Sea trade, will be his main priority as DUP leader.

He was accompanied by North Antrim MP Ian Paisley for the early morning exchanges at Stormont House.

Many unionists and loyalists are vehemently opposed to the protocol, which has created economic barriers on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Mr Poots told PA he wanted to see the protocol removed, not reformed.

“My desire is to get rid of the protocol,” he said.

“The protocol in itself is something which is hugely damaging. I don’t know whether it is fixable.

“I don’t see that there has been the effort to create that fixing thus far. So my desire is the removal of the protocol.”

Following Tuesday’s meeting, a UK Government spokesman said: “The Secretary of State met with Edwin Poots following his election as the new leader of the DUP, and looks forward to continuing to work closely with him and other political leaders to continue delivering stability and prosperity in Northern Ireland.”

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