Government must deliver something ‘seismic’ to convince DUP on a Stormont return

Edwin Poots Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The UK Government needs to produce something “seismic” to persuade the DUP to return to powersharing in Northern Ireland, a senior party figure has said.

Former leader Edwin Poots said what was on the table at present was “nowhere near” enough to convince his party to end its blockade on devolution at Stormont.

The DUP has been blocking powersharing for more than a year in protest at the internal UK trade barriers created by Brexit’s contentious Northern Ireland Protocol.

The party says the deal struck by the EU and UK to reform the protocol – the Windsor Framework – does not sufficiently address its concerns and has made clear it will not countenance a return to devolution until the Government provides further assurances, by way of legislation, over Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris will formally sign off on the new appointment Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

Talks between the DUP and Government have been ongoing over the summer and Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton Harris has insisted significant progress has been made.

There are differing views within the DUP, with some influential party figures apparently more keen than others to drop the boycott and return to a ministerial executive.

Mr Poots said he wanted to see Stormont return but warned the Government it needed to offer more.

“I think that we need to see something seismic coming from Downing Street and it’s going to take something significant to make that happen,” he told BBC NI’s Sunday Politics programme.

“I very much want it to happen. However, what has been on the table heretofore is nowhere near adequate to bring the DUP back into the room.”

Sinn Fein and the other main Stormont parties have long been calling on the DUP to return to the assembly and executive to address a major funding crisis with public services in the region.

On Friday, Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill said the DUP was dragging out its blockade of powersharing in the pursuit of something that looks impossible to achieve.

Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill called for the restoration of Stormont Credit: PA

She said last week’s major investment conference in Northern Ireland demonstrated the huge economic potential of the region, but that a functioning ministerial executive was required to fully harness those opportunities.

“Clearly, we know that the DUP are in negotiations with the British Government, but they have been for some time, and they need to get on with it because while they are sitting off trying to maybe achieve something that is impossible, the public are suffering,” she told the PA news agency.

“I hope that we can get a resolution. I believe in a restored executive. I think that we’ve been far too long out of the executive. But I hope that we can get to a point where the DUP do end that blockade and get into the executive with the rest of us.

“I think the investment conference this week shows that we have huge economic potential to create more and better jobs. But we need an executive up and running to really harness that.”