Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Donaldson ‘will hold Government’s feet to the fire’ over Stormont deal

DUP leader Sir Jeffery Donaldson has said he will hold the Government’s ‘feet to the fire’ on the issue (Niall Carson/PA)
DUP leader Sir Jeffery Donaldson has said he will hold the Government’s ‘feet to the fire’ on the issue (Niall Carson/PA)

The leader of the DUP has warned the Government he will hold its “feet to the fire” on delivering on the deal to restore Stormont as he admitted he did not fully trust it.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said independent monitoring mechanisms built into the agreement meant there were means to ensure the Government was doing what it has pledged to do.

The DUP has given the green light for the recall of the Stormont Assembly on the back of the deal, with powersharing due to be restored in Northern Ireland on Saturday after two years in cold storage.

On Thursday, two pieces of legislation contained in the agreement to resurrect devolution were fast-tracked through the House of Commons.

The DUP has agreed the package of measures with the Government that Sir Jeffrey says has effectively removed the so-called Irish Sea border for goods moving from Great Britain to, and staying in, Northern Ireland.

The plan is set out in a command paper titled Safeguarding the Union.

“There is undoubtedly a trust issue here,” the DUP leader told BBC Radio Ulster on Friday.

“I will hold the Government’s feet to the fire, there are new mechanisms. I’m not just relying on the UK Government.

“There’s a new independent monitoring panel to be established under this agreement, which will hold the Government’s feet to the fire as an independent body.

“I will be able to appoint people, professional people with knowledge of customs arrangements, with knowledge of trading arrangements, who will be able to ensure that what the Government have promised to deliver is delivered.”

Sir Jeffrey added: “It (command paper) is a political declaration of what the Government is doing and has, in some instances, already done and will do.

“In political transactions, there is a degree of guarantee and there is a degree of trust – most transactions in life are like that. Do we completely 100% trust the Government? No, of course not.

“That’s why I have built mechanisms in here and safety nets in here to ensure that if the Government dishonour their side, then we have measures that we can utilise to address that.”

When the Northern Ireland Assembly does reconvene at Parliament Buildings on Saturday it will witness the historically significant moment of the appointment of its first nationalist First Minister, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill.

The DUP will hold the position of deputy First Minister – an office that wields the same powers as the First Minister.

Party leaders are meeting at Stormont Castle on Friday afternoon for preparatory discussions ahead of the return of devolution.

While Sir Jeffrey has secured the backing of a majority of party colleagues to accept the deal, there are those within the DUP who remain deeply sceptical of the proposed agreement to restore powersharing.

Northern Ireland meeting
A public meeting at Moygashel Orange Hall, Belfast, after the agreement of a Government package that is set to deliver the restoration of powersharing in Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)

Parliamentary debate on the two motions on Thursday laid bare the divisions at the very top of the DUP, with senior party members Lord Dodds and Sammy Wilson voicing opposition to the proposals, albeit both stopped short of criticising their leader.

Sir Jeffrey is also facing opposition outside his party.

Around 120 unionists and loyalists opposed to the deal gathered at a meeting in Moygashel Orange Hall in Co Tyrone on Thursday night.

TUV leader Jim Allister told the meeting that Northern Ireland remained a “colony” because it had to accept economic laws made by the EU while loyalist activist Jamie Bryson said the Irish Sea trading border remained.

However, the DUP leader was given a significant boost on Friday when a high-profile Orange Order chief declared his personal support for the package.

Grand Secretary of the Orange Order Mervyn Gibson, writing in the Belfast Telegraph, said while the deal was not perfect, it was a “win for unionist determination and unity, and needs to be accepted as such”.

On Friday a former attorney general for Northern Ireland rejected the contention that a Government deal to restore Stormont had removed an Irish Sea border.

John Larkin KC was commissioned by several vocal opponents of the agreement to assess the legal effect of the measures.

The legal opinion was commissioned Mr Allister, Mr Bryson, former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib and Baroness Kate Hoey.

The Government has faced questions in Parliament from Brexiteer backbenchers who have expressed concern that the deal agreed with the DUP would place limits on the UK’s ability to diverge from EU regulations.

Ministers have sought to reassure MPs that the measures will not affect the UK’s capacity to diverge.

The paper commits to replacing the Windsor Framework’s green lane process at Northern Ireland ports, which requires percentages of goods to be checked as they arrive from Great Britain, with a “UK internal market system” that will govern the movement of goods that remain within the United Kingdom.

Checks would still be carried out but on a risk-based/intelligence-led model to combat illegality and disease, rather than routine stops of disembarking lorries.

Businesses using the internal market system would also need to be signed up to a trusted trader scheme.

Michelle O’Neill
Michelle O’Neill is expected to become First Minister (Niall Carson/PA)

The measure to reduce checks on GB/NI trade is part of a wide-ranging deal agreed between the DUP and the Government that would bring about the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland after a two-year hiatus.

The DUP has agreed to drop its two-year blockade of Stormont in exchange for the Government measures aimed at addressing its concerns about post-Brexit trading arrangements that created economic barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The return of Stormont will see the Treasury release a £3.3 billion package to support under-pressure public services in Northern Ireland.

The financial package, announced by the Government before Christmas, includes money to settle the demands of striking public sector workers in the region this year.

Despite the moves to restore the devolved institutions, industrial action continued on Thursday, with public transport workers and school support staff picketing in the latest day of strikes in Northern Ireland.