By Cate McCurry (PA)
Michelle O’Neill has warned that the British Government’s plan to enact legislation to scrap the Northern Ireland Protocol will have “colossal political and economic consequences”.
The Sinn Fein Stormont leader said that Boris Johnson’s plan to override parts of the protocol has “sounded alarm bells” across Europe and America.
Speaking at the annual Wolfe Tone commemoration in Bodenstown, Co Kildare, the first minister designate told the crowd that it was an “irrefutable fact” that the protocol is working.
“Boris Johnson is incapable of accepting in a straightforward, honest and truthful way that this is the case,” Ms O’Neill added.
“The attempts this week by Boris Johnson to sabotage the protocol in plain sight have sounded the alarm bells right across Ireland, Britain, Europe and America, awakening all those who value the Good Friday Agreement and who care deeply about safeguarding our peace and progress of the past quarter century.
“It is not taken lightly that this British Government discards international law at a whim in such a reckless way, and only ever in their own selfish interests.
“Boris Johnson knows that to gamble the protocol is to jeopardise the British Government’s agreement with the EU on their withdrawal and future trading relationship with colossal political and economic impact.
“The Tories have no mandate on this island.
“However, a majority of those MLAs recently elected do and there is a majority in the Assembly who support the protocol because it is working, giving us continued access to the European single market, creating jobs and economic benefit.”
Ms O’Neill called for all Northern Ireland to re-enter the EU and said the Irish Government “must plan for constitutional change”.
“We need re-entry back into the EU for all of Ireland,” she added.
“We need an Irish national health service, free at the point of entry. We need to tackle the climate crisis on our island.
“We need to end the duplication of public services.
“We need to maximise the full economic potential and opportunities for everyone who shares this island.
“For many people the frustration, impatience and urgency for change is growing.
“There is a direct challenge and responsibility on the Irish Government of the day to plan for constitutional change.
“In order to avoid the dangers, jeopardy and pitfalls of the Brexit referendum in Britain.”
Ms O’Neill also told the crowd that Sinn Fein’s recent success at the Northern Ireland Assembly elections reflects the “changing public attitudes”.
Sinn Fein is the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly for the first time, winning 27 seats.
The DUP has blocked the establishment of a new ministerial executive following last month’s Assembly election in protest at the protocol, which has created economic barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Ms O’Neill repeated her calls to the DUP to form an Executive.
“Irrespective of religious, political or social backgrounds, our commitment is to make politics work through partnership, co-operation and delivery working with others who want progress,” Ms O’Neill added.
“Sinn Fein wants to work together with others to deliver for people. We are ready to form an Executive now.
“We need to put over £400 million into people’s pockets to help deal with the cost of living, and an extra one billion euro into the health service to reduce waiting lists, support cancer and mental health services, and recruit more doctors and nurses.
“Workers and families are struggling. They need our help.
“The DUP need to stop blocking an Executive, so we can give people that help right away.”