Donaldson stands by offer to base Trident in Northern Ireland

DUP MP says Belfast would gets jobs boost if nuclear deterrent had to find new home

The Royal Navy’s 16,000 ton Trident-class nuclear submarine Vanguard. File photograph: PA Wire

The Royal Navy’s 16,000 ton Trident-class nuclear submarine Vanguard. File photograph: PA Wire

 

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson has said he has no intention of withdrawing an offer to base the British nuclear deterrent Trident in Northern Ireland.

The Green Party has criticised the offer, made during a House of Commons debate, as “cavalier” and “arrogant”.

MPs are debating the renewal of the multi-billion pound weapons system, which involves four nuclear powered Vanguard submarines, one of which is constantly armed and at sea.

The Tory government is in faviour of renewal but the Scottish National Party opposes the Clyde-based programme, describing it as “unusable and indefensible”. The party, which has 56 MPs, said plans to renew the system were “ludicrous on both defence and financial grounds”.

Mr Donaldson said if Scotland was ever to leave the United Kingdom, then Northern Ireland could become the new home of Trident.

“The Scottish nationalists were saying that they didn’t want Trident imposed upon them and I suppose at some time in the future there’s alwas the possibility that if Scotland left the United Kingdom then a new home would have to be found for Trident.

“I understand that the only suitable location that might work in Northern Ireland is Belfast Lough and obviously if we were in a situation to compete for the 10,000 jobs that go with Trident then that is something we would want to look at.”

He added that it would be “by far the preferred outcome” for Trident to remain at its current base in Scotland because of the costs involved in transferring it to the North.

“I suppose I’m just putting down a marker that if ever the opportunity arose I think Belfast would want to compete because the jobs alone would be a major boost for our local economy.”

Green Party councillor for Louth Mark Dearey called on Mr Donaldson to withdraw the remarks made in the House of Commons . He said: “Given that his fellow MPs in the SNP who have direct experience of the Trident presence are deeply worried, it would serve Mr. Donaldson well to reflect before making offers without any public discussion or consultation in Northern Ireland or in the Assembly.

But Mr Robertson said he would “absolutely not” withdraw the remarks, adding “given the demise of the Green Party in the Irish Republic I don’t think many people are going to listen to what they have to say”.

Since 1969, a British submarine carrying nuclear weapons has always been on partol somewhere in the world’s oceans. Proponents say it keeps Britain safe by enabling the country to carry out a major attck even if all its other defence capablities are wiped out.

Each of the four submarines involved in the Trident programme, which replaced the Polaris system in the 1980s, carry a sealed “letter of last resort” from the prime minister, containing instructions to follow if the UK has suffered an overwhelming attack.

The British government has said replacing Trident will cost between £15 billion and £20 billion. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the figure is closer to £100 billion.