NSMC: DUP Boycott

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 14th September 2021.

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Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin 2:30 pm, 14th September 2021

T4. Mr O'Dowd asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs how anyone can take him as a man of his word or his party as a party that will stand by its word, given that although, on 11 January 2020, he took a pledge to serve all the people equally and “to participate fully in the Executive Committee, the North-South Ministerial Council and the British-Irish Council”, the DUP’s boycott of the NSMC means that he has broken that pledge, with the boycott causing problems for farmers and the rural community that he serves, albeit in response to Mrs Barton’s question about the boycott, he said that it may cause problems for the other parties. (AQT 1554/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I also stand by my word to serve in the best interests of the people whom I represent — the Member might reflect on that — whether they are people in Lough Neagh who are having trouble obtaining or selling their eels, farmers in west Tyrone or north Antrim who struggle to get blackface sheep from Scotland, which is an important part of their business, or the pedigree breeders who take animals to Scotland and bring them back if they are not sold. You say that you represent and speak for farmers. The farmers I speak to, who come from across the community, tell me that cannot go on. Do you know what? It would be much better if you stood with us on the issue and said to Europe, "Stop hurting the people I represent". I should not have to do that on your behalf, but I am.

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

I will happily bring the Minister around Upper Bann and show him the new developments and investments that are taking place as a result of the protocol. We told you that following the line of Brexit would damage relationships and potentially damage industry on this island. Minister, you did not answer the question. After you broke the Pledge of Office, how can I or anyone else take you as a man of your word?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I have taken my position on the protocol from the outset. I indicated from the outset that the protocol would cause problems in Northern Ireland, but your party and the other three main parties — Alliance, the SDLP and the Green Party — all called for its rigorous implementation. With your rigorous implementation, what will you do about checking the 419,000 trucks that come from Great Britain to this place to feed people in Northern Ireland? Do you want more trucks stopped and checked? Do you want more cost to be added? When that cost is added to the Lidls, the Icelands, the Tescos or whoever, they will put up their prices for the people who live in Kilwilke, Taghnevan, —

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Garvaghy Road and the other places where you seek votes. You are hurting your own people by looking for the rigorous implementation of the protocol, —

Photo of John O'Dowd John O'Dowd Sinn Féin

Are you a man of your word?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

— which we are working to get rid of.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Order, Members. We place a question, and we then allow the Minister to answer.