Sinn Féin opposed to Stormont veto on Northern Ireland-only backstop
McDonald tells party think-in DUP ‘must not have veto on protecting Ireland’s basic rights’
Sinn Féin leader Mary-Lou McDonald (right) with deputy leader Michelle O’Neill (left) at the party’s think-in. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
The Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said her party will oppose any Stormont veto as part of a new Northern Ireland-only backstop.
Speaking at the party’s think-in today, Ms McDonald said that the DUP “must not have a veto on protecting Ireland’s basic rights”.
The idea of a role for Stormont in a new Northern Ireland-only backstop – to replace the existing all-UK backstop, which commits the country to remaining under EU rules in the absence of a better solution – has been mooted in recent days in London.
However, Ms McDonald said: “There should be no veto in the protection of Irish interests ... The DUP, the assembly, nobody can have a veto on what are very, very necessary bottom-line protections. They’re not green protections, or orange, it’s not a nationalist or a unionist demand, this is the position of Ireland, this is the position that has been articulated consistently since Brexit came to pass and this is the position that now must be adhered to .”
Speaking to journalists at the Carrickdale Hotel on the Louth-Down border, Ms McDonald said that there must be “no hardening of the Border, that means no customs, no checks, no matter where they are”.
Asked if she would consider voting pacts among the anti-Brexit parties in the North in the coming British election, the Sinn Féin leader said: “There is room for thoughtful and intelligent joint working together ... what form that takes , I think we need to reflect on.”
However, in her speech to delegates this morning, Ms McDonald ruled out any change to Sinn Féin’s abstentionist policy, promising the party would stand candidates in the next British general election who would not take their seats at Westminster.
“If Fianna Fáil feels differently, let them contest the election on a go-to-Westminster platform and see how they get on,” she said.
In her speech to delegates, Ms McDonald described the British government policy as a “Brexit fantasy that is profoundly stupid and immeasurably dangerous”.
“Mr Johnson’s stupid, dangerous fantasy cannot become Ireland’s nightmare because Brexit is a very English problem and the consequences of it cannot be shifted on to Ireland,” she said
Later, winding up the one-day conference, the Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said that the party would oppose any checks near the Border in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as outlined by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last week, in order to protect Ireland’s place in the single market.
“There’s no choice to be made between the protection of the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement and the protection of the single market, and the Irish Government must remember that,” she said.
She disputed the unionist view that a Northern Ireland-only backstop would be a constitutional issue but said that the planning for a united Ireland must begin “without delay”.
“The only certainty,” she said, “is that Irish unity is the only solution.”
She said that Sinn Féin would hold the Taoiseach to his word “whenever he said that no citizen in the North would ever be left behind again”.