Boris Johnson resigns: NI politicians and organisations react to PM’s departure

Boris JohnsonImage source, Reuters
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Boris Johnson wants to stay on as prime minister until autumn on an interim basis

Politicians and organisations in Northern Ireland have been reacting to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation as leader of the Conservative Party.

He hopes to remain prime minister until autumn on an interim basis while a successor is appointed.

Mr Johnson said it is “clearly now the will” of Conservative MPs that there should be a new leader.

However, a growing number of Tory MPs say he has to leave No 10 now.

The prime minister’s resignation comes with Northern Ireland facing a number of ongoing issues, including legislation regarding overriding the Northern Ireland Protocol part of the Brexit deal, a controversial bill on legacy cases from the Troubles and the ongoing impasse over forming a power-sharing government.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader

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The DUP leader said the last 24 hours had been “unprecedented”

Sir Jeffrey reiterated that efforts to remove the Northern Ireland Protocol, regardless of personnel changes in Downing Street.

“I recognise the efforts made by the outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his team to replace the Northern Ireland Protocol with arrangements which can command the support of unionists as well as nationalists,” he said.

“It is no secret that we believed that Boris Johnson had a duty to get rid of the Irish Sea border having disastrously gone against our advice and signed a withdrawal agreement containing the protocol.”

Sir Jeffrey said the leadership of the Conservative and Unionist Party was “a matter for the MPs and members of that party”, but added that they should “recognise that no unionist MLAs or MPs support the protocol”.

“Fully functioning devolved government in Stormont and the protocol cannot coexist,” he said.

Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Féin president

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Mary Lou McDonald says Boris Johnson “will not be missed”

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Johnson’s interactions with the island of Ireland have been “wholly negative” and that he “will not be missed”.

She said: “Under his leadership, we have seen an attack on the Good Friday Agreement; threat after threat to break international law; Boris Johnson’s government brought austerity to the people in the north of Ireland.

“And of course he championed and brought the disaster that is Brexit to all of us.”

Ms McDonald added that Mr Johnson’s “priority when it comes to the north has been to placate the DUP”.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin

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Taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin wished Boris Johnson and his family well

The Irish leader noted that Boris Johnson had led the UK government during “an especially challenging period” that included the coronavirus pandemic and Ukraine war.

However, he said “the relationship between our governments has been strained and challenged in recent times”.

“Our joint responsibilities concerning stewardship of the Good Friday Agreement, as well as nurturing broader bilateral relations between us, require us to work together in a spirit of respect, trust and partnership,” Mr Martin said.

“That is more important than ever today and I would once again urge a pulling back from unilateral action, whether that be on dealing with the legacy of the past, human rights, or the Northern Ireland Protocol.”

He welcomed the UK working together with the European Union in response to the war in Ukraine and said he remained committed to working with the UK government “in that spirit in the times ahead”.

Stephen Farry, Alliance Party deputy leader

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Stephen Farry said it was good to see the prime minister “finally resigning”

The Alliance MP welcomed Mr Johnson’s resignation, adding that what was witnessed in recent days was “a complete farce”.

“I am deeply, deeply concerned at the notion that Boris Johnson will stay on as a caretaker prime minister until the autumn or until his successor is determined by the Conservative Party,” he told BBC News NI.

“This is not an ordinary transition. He has proved over the past few days that he simply doesn’t have the character or the judgment to be a credible prime minister and he needs to go fully today.”

He said, overall in Northern Ireland, the prime minister “won’t be missed”.

Colum Eastwood, Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader

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Colum Eastwood said the outgoing prime minister should leave government immediately

The Foyle MP welcomed Boris Johnson’s “long overdue” resignation and said the prime minister should leave government immediately.

“Boris Johnson has debased the office he holds, he has fundamentally and indelibly damaged public confidence in politics and public life and his death grip on power has prolonged a period of government that will be characterised by law-breaking, scandal and sleaze,” Mr Eastwood said.

He added that the failings of the government go beyond the prime minister.

“Those who have fled the sinking ship are incapable of putting the problems right, not least of all the approach to legacy and the protocol in Northern Ireland.

“This is a moment to bring an end to twelve years of Tory government,” he said.

Doug Beattie, Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader

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The Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie said Johnson left Northern Ireland in a worse state than when he took office

Doug Beattie said that, whether it’s Brexit, the protocol, Partygate or how he dealt with allegations against Chris Pincher, the prime minister will be remembered for “his poor credibility and lack of integrity”.

“Just to top it all off, when he knows he should have went quite some months ago, he has clung on and all he has managed to do is damage the reputation of the United Kingdom,” Mr Beattie told BBC News NI.

He added that “when they agreed the protocol, they agreed something that was always going to be divisive”.

“He has left Northern Ireland in a worse state from when he took over as prime minister.”

Gerry Carroll, People Before Profit MLA

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Gerry Carroll said people should be allowed to have their say in an election

Mr Carroll responded to Boris Johnson’s resignation by calling for an election.

“Boris Johnson’s resignation is long overdue, but it is no good replacing him with someone who is equally culpable in attacking working people − the entire Tory government should be put out of office,” he said.

“None of the Tories waiting in line to take Johnson’s place are fit to lead a government; they are self-serving elites who have treated people in need with contempt for years.”

The People Before Profit assembly member said, “It is time to let the people have their say on this rotten Tory government”.

Jim Allister, Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader

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The TUV leader says Boris Johnson’s tenure has been “disastrous” for Northern Ireland

Mr Allister said Boris Johnson’s tenure as prime minister had been “disastrous for unionism”.

He said the introduction of the protocol ensured “that far from securing Brexit for the entire nation, he has left Northern Ireland subject to EU writ and partition from the rest of the UK”.

“With Westminster in state of flux, it is more imperative than ever that unionism holds firm in using Stormont leverage against the iniquitous protocol,” he added.

British Irish Chamber of Commerce

The British Irish Chamber of Commerce acknowledged Boris Johnson’s resignation and called on the EU and UK “to continue to constructively engage to resolve the issues relating to the Northern Ireland Protocol”.

“Today’s announcement comes at a time when issues regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol remain unaddressed and, as a result, continue to pose problems for businesses on both sides of the border,” John McGrane, director general of the chamber said.

“In this scenario, the chamber and its members urge the next prime minister to collaborate with Ireland and the European Union to solve the challenging issues relating to protocol and provide much needed clarity for businesses and communities across these islands.”

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