Sinn Féin and SDLP pull out of talks with Foreign Secretary after Mary Lou McDonald 'excluded'

Talks aimed at resolving issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol have descended into chaos with both Sinn Féin and SDLP pulling out.

Sinn Fein said party president Mary Lou McDonald was "excluded". The SDLP said it will not attend either due to Ms McDonald's absence.

The UK Government said the talks were for Northern Ireland politicians to talk through issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol".

WATCH: Full analysis from UTV's Political Editor Tracey Magee:

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is in Northern Ireland spending the day meeting with other political parties parties and businesses as discussions continue on the protocol.

In a statement, Sinn Fein said there was no room for "bad faith" and "petulance" from the UK Government.

“This is a time for inclusion, dialogue and engagement. This is a time for mature and civil politics.  There is no room for bad faith and petulance from the British government.

“There is serious work to be done in the days and weeks ahead. This is an important week and we must pull out all the stops to get the Executive back up and running and working together for all our people.

“We look forward to engaging with the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and the British Labour leader Keir Starmer tomorrow.”

Speaking after the meeting, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he did not want to get drawn into the row, but that no party had been excluded.

He said: "That is a matter between the Northern Ireland Office and Sinn Fein.

"My understanding is the NIO didn't exclude any party.

"There was an issue around the protocol of Mary Lou McDonald meeting the Foreign Secretary ahead of the Foreign Secretary meeting his counterpart in Dublin.

"That is not a matter for me. I am not going to get drawn into this.

"It is better when all parties are at the table. I want to see all parties in Northern Ireland putting their views across, particularly to the Foreign Secretary.

"I hope next time the parties will be back at the table."

A UK Government spokesperson said: "This meeting is for Northern Ireland politicians to talk through issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol with SOSNI and the UK Foreign Secretary.

"The leader of Sinn Fein in the assembly was invited and remains invited. Her attendance is a matter for Sinn Fein but she was not excluded."

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