Mary Lou McDonald tells Boris Johnson "the Irish people will not be bullied by his bluster"
"He needs to ensure he is not the DUP’s gopher."
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has told Boris Johnson that the Irish people will not be bullied over Brexit and that the "ongoing indulgence" of the DUP and rejectionist unionism must end.
On Tuesday night, the newly-appointed Prime Minister of the UK held a private dinner with DUP leaders including Arlene Foster, Nigel Dodds and Jeffrey Donaldson in Belfast.
On Wednesday, Johnson met with a Sinn Féin delegation that included McDonald, Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill, MP Elisha McCallion and Chief Negotiator Conor Murphy at Stormont.
Of the meeting on Wednesday, McDonald said: “We told him that to make progress here, he needs to ensure he is not the DUP’s gopher. He needs to stop mollycoddling them and he needs to put pressure on his unionist colleagues so that we can land on a deal that is equitable and fair. With political will, agreement can be reached on the outstanding rights issues so the ongoing indulgence of the DUP and rejectionist unionism has to stop.”
McDonald also said that she insisted to Johnson that the Irish people will not be bullied by the British government over Brexit.
She added: “We told Boris Johnson that the Irish people will not be bullied by his bluster. We told him that he needs to respect the wishes of the majority here who voted to remain within the EU and who support the backstop as the minimum protections required.
“We reminded him of his obligations under the Good Friday and subsequent agreements including the requirement to act with rigorous impartiality and the provision for a unity referendum. So if Boris Johnson is indeed willing to see a hard border reimposed on our island, then he must also provide for a unity referendum as laid out in the Good Friday Agreement. That is the route back to the EU for the people in the North – unionist nationalist and neither – who voted against Brexit in the first place.”
Earlier on Wednesday, DUP leader Arlene Foster appeared on Morning Ireland, where she asked the Republic of Ireland's government to “dial back on the rhetoric” and look for a different solution to the backstop.
Foster said that while a no-deal Brexit is undesirable for everyone, she believes that the government in the Republic of Ireland have been belligerent in their pursuit of a backstop in the Brexit agreement.
Since arriving in 10 Downing Street, Johnson has consistently talked about about the need for the UK to bin the backstop as a precondition for Brexit negotiations and to avoid a no-deal exit.
Following a recent telephone conversation between Johnson and Leo Varadkar, a spokesperson for the Taoiseach said: “The Taoiseach emphasised to the Prime Minister that the backstop was necessary as a consequence of decisions taken in the UK and by the UK government. Noting that the Brexit negotiations take place between the UK and the EU, the Taoiseach explained that the EU was united in its view that the withdrawal agreement could not be reopened.
“Alternative arrangements could replace the backstop in the future, as envisaged in the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration on the future relationship, but thus far satisfactory options have yet to be identified and demonstrated.”
In November 2018, then Prime Minister Theresa May said her cabinet had finally backed a deal between UK-EU negotiators that included agreement on a backstop.
In March 2019, the EU and UK agreed upon a joint interpretation of the backstop, clarifying the earlier deal, which the EU have subsequently given no signal they will be willing to renegotiate.