The DUP leader has urged Boris Johnson to focus on Northern Ireland rather than the 'partygate' scandal at Downing Street.
Jeffrey Donaldson was speaking to Sky News after his party’s first minister Paul Givan resigned from the post of First Minister in Northern Ireland on Thursday a campaign against the protocol.
"I would say this to the prime minister: Northern Ireland is an important part of the United Kingdom, " Mr Donaldson said in an interview broadcast on Saturday.
“You’re our prime minister and if you want to build confidence, then do what other prime ministers did in the past and recognise that we have a serious problem here and instead of being focused on what’s going on in Downing Street, be the prime minister the people need.
“Reach out to Northern Ireland, help us to resolve these issues, make this a priority, let’s get our political institutions restored on the basis of sound foundations. That means dealing with the protocol, making these issues a priority so the people of Northern Ireland can enjoy strong stable government,” he said.
The Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Friday night strongly criticised the DUP’s decision to resign from the post and also criticised comments on Friday Mr Donaldson that cast doubt over whether the DUP would go back into government after an election if issues in relation to the Northern Ireland protocol were not addressed.
“No one party should use language like ‘unless we are fully satisfied we will not be participating’,” Mr Martin said.
“No one party should have a veto over whether an Executive exists or continues on, and likewise the Assembly,” he said.
He said negotiations on the protocol were continuing between the EU and the UK and progress had been made. “The conclusion of those should have been awaited in my view by the DUP.”
The Northern Ireland protocol is a part of the EU-UK Brexit withdrawal agreement guaranteeing a special post-Brexit trading status for the North in order to avoid a hard Border in Ireland.
As a consequence of the DUP’s move, the Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin, also ceased to hold office. Ministers now cannot sit in the Northern Ireland Executive and the Executive is unable to take significant policy decisions.
The Stormont crisis comes amid turmoil in Downing Street with Mr Johnson under further political pressure this weekend after conservative MP and former schools minister Nick Gibb has called on him to resign in an opinion piece published in The Telegraph newspaper . He said his constituents are "furious about the double standards" exposed by reports of social gatherings at Downing Street.
On Saturday the UK culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, rejected calls for Boris Johnson to resign claiming that the “vast majority” of the party were behind the prime minister.
A report by senior civil servant Sue Gray found that alcohol-fuelled events had taken place at Mr Johnson’s offices and residence when Covid-19 lockdown rules were in force.