Outgoing NI secretary ‘shamefully placated the DUP,’ says Michelle O’Neill

Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill criticized outgoing NI Secretary Brandon Lewis (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Wire)

Northern Ireland’s outgoing secretary has been criticized for having “shamefully placated the DUP”.

Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill criticized Brandon Lewis when he joined the ranks of Conservative ministers who left office in a move against Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

It stated that he “abandoned any pretense of acting with the ‘rigorous impartiality’ required of him under the Good Friday Agreement.”

“He has shamefully placated the DUP by giving him political cover by denying the electorate the democratic representation to which they are entitled,” he said.

The Stormont Assembly continues to collapse amid a dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The DUP is refusing to nominate ministers for the executive or a speaker to allow the Assembly to function until the UK government takes action on post-Brexit arrangements.

Meanwhile, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has welcomed reports that Johnson will resign as prime minister later, claiming he has “demoted the position he holds”.

“He has fundamentally and indelibly damaged public confidence in politics and public life, and his deadly grip on power has prolonged a period of rule that will be characterized by lawlessness, scandal and sleaze.

“Now he should leave the government immediately,” he said.

Ms O’Neill also criticized Mr Lewis for his bill to deal with Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

The Northern Ireland Trouble (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill provides an effective amnesty for trouble offenses for those who co-operate with a reporting body.

She added: “He has undermined the Good Friday Agreement and political stability, and his actions gave us a daily reminder why those without a mandate or vote here will only act in their own political interest, and not ours.

“The political stability of the North cannot be held hostage to the Conservative battles, the chaos of Westminster and the continued disruption of the DUP.”

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie raised concerns about the vacancy, saying that as the Stormont Assembly remains collapsed, Northern Ireland is now in charge of the civil service.

He described the situation as “as bad as it gets”.

Lewis announced his resignation on Thursday morning, tweeting a copy of his resignation letter in which he told the prime minister that he “had given you and those around you the benefit of the doubt.”

“However, we have now passed the point of no return.

“I cannot sacrifice my personal integrity to defend things as they are now. It is clear that our Party, parliamentary colleagues, volunteers and the entire country deserve better,” he said.

NIO Minister Conor Burns has indicated he will remain in office and tweeted that he will lead for the government at a meeting of the British-Irish Council.

“It is vital at this time that the work of @NIOgov continue to be done.

“I am committed to continuing to serve the wonderful people of Northern Ireland to the best of my ability at this difficult time,” he said.

Mr Beattie told the BBC: “We are spectators here watching what happens as this omnishambles is presented to us.

“We don’t have a properly functioning government in the UK, we don’t have a secretary of state, we don’t have an assembly and we don’t have an executive and we are now run by the civil service as it is, and if Northern Ireland or anywhere else If the UK had a major incident, I doubt we would be able to get the COBR committee together so that we could create some kind of response.”

Alliance MP Stephen Farry described a “completely insane situation” and described Boris Johnson as a “self-titled narcissistic chump”.

“The fact that it has gotten to this point is damning in itself,” he said, also questioning the DUP’s silence on Johnson.

Prominent victims’ advocate Raymond McCord welcomed Mr. Lewis’s resignation.

Victims activist Raymond McCord is interviewed in Parliament Square, Westminster (PA) (PA Archive)

Victims activist Raymond McCord is interviewed in Parliament Square, Westminster (PA) (PA Archive)

Mr McCord said: “He (Mr Lewis) has betrayed the victims of the Troubles with the Legacy Bill which grants amnesty to murderers.

“Brandon Lewis decided to reward the killers with amnesties for the murders they committed and punish the victims and their families by ensuring that all avenues to justice and even civil cases are closed.

“He insulted all the victims by stating that he would help us.

“Certainly the victims will not miss him.”

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