Mid and East Antrim Borough Council: Concerns

Oral Answers to Questions — Infrastructure – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 26th April 2021.

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Photo of Sinead McLaughlin Sinead McLaughlin Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:15 pm, 26th April 2021

T3. Ms McLaughlin asked the Minister for Infrastructure whether she, as a Minister in the Executive, shares her concerns about the unfolding situation with the chief executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, who authored an extremely contentious letter to the UK Government under the advice and direction of three DUP MPs. (AQT 1233/17-22)

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Before the Minister answers, she will, of course, be aware that an inquiry by the Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs is ongoing into matters relating to some disclosures on the withdrawal of staff from Larne port.

Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have some very serious concerns about what appears to have happened in this instance. As the Deputy Speaker said, I am also aware that the matter is subject to an inquiry by the Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

I have no doubt that Members will have real concerns about what has emerged in recent days. One of the key questions that many people have is this: on whose behalf is the chief executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council acting? Is it the council members or a consortium of DUP MPs?

Photo of Sinead McLaughlin Sinead McLaughlin Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister for her answer. It is clear that she is as concerned as I am. Does the Minister agree that, regardless of whether it is on this issue or the DUP Minister messing about on other issues, the DUP is the common factor? Whether or not they agree with the protocol, its Ministers have to fulfil their legal duties.

Photo of Nichola Mallon Nichola Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party

The Northern Ireland protocol is a legally binding obligation, and all Ministers are required to fulfil their legal responsibilities. The SDLP has put forward a proposal to take a twin-track approach to the issues around the protocol, and it is that we work together to find pragmatic solutions to the difficulties that have emerged but that, at the same time, we work to maximise the opportunities that are there for our economy and communities, given the uniqueness of the situation in which Northern Ireland finds itself. Of course, I will continue, as Minister, to fulfil all my legal obligations in that regard, and I am very much committed to working with all Executive colleagues to ensure that we get the best possible outcomes for the people of Northern Ireland.