Demand for North’s special status dismissed as ‘hot air’

Sinn Féin says DUP and ‘Tory allies cannot be allowed to drag the North out of the EU’

Michelle O’Neill: The new Sinn Féin leader at Stormont called it “regrettable” that the DUP is standing against those in Northern Ireland who voted to remain. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Michelle O’Neill: The new Sinn Féin leader at Stormont called it “regrettable” that the DUP is standing against those in Northern Ireland who voted to remain. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

 

Unionist parties have dismissed as “hot air” and “nonsense” a Sinn Féin proposal that Northern Ireland should have special status within the European Union.

Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin’s new Northern leader, in launching a document urging special status within the EU for Northern Ireland, said the “DUP and their British Tory allies cannot be allowed to drag the North out of the EU”.

While the UK voted for Brexit, 56 per cent of the people of Northern Ireland voted remain. This vote must be respected, said Ms O’Neill.

“It is regrettable that the DUP have chosen to stand with the Tory party against the cross-community majority who voted to remain,” said Ms O’Neill on Tuesday.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds described her comments as “hot air”. “It is impossible to conclude that the call for Northern Ireland to have special status within the EU is anything other than a refusal to accept the result of the referendum,” he said.

Border in the sea

Mr Dodds accused nationalists of calling for special status in order to “separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom with a border in the Irish Sea”.

“The UK entered the European Union together as a nation, we voted in the referendum as a nation, and we must respect that result and leave the EU as a nation,” he said.

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson rejected Sinn Féin’s calls for special EU status for “what it calls the North” and criticised its MEPs for “once again attempting to use Europe to create a false sense of ambiguity about the constitutional position of Northern Ireland”.

“As even [SNP leader] Nicola Sturgeon is beginning to realise in Scotland, ” Mr Nicholson said, “the United Kingdom entered the EEC as a whole, and it will leave the EU as a whole.”