Following on from the remarks of my friend from South Belfast, I rise to raise the very concerning issue of the remarks made at the weekend by a senior EU diplomat:
"We are ready for peace but prepared for war."
The use of such language not only is outrageous but follows a pattern of language and rhetoric used by EU officials and the likes of some Irish politicians who should know better, including Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, who regularly use images of facilities destroyed in attacks by republican terrorists as so-called evidence to support their desire for the creation of the protocol. We have seen today that those are entirely counterproductive acts that have undermined support for the Belfast Agreement.
My party leader spoke directly to the EU ambassador to the UK, Maroš Šefcovic, Simon Coveney and the Taoiseach about that very issue. He also stated to senior EU diplomats face to face, as have some of us here, that they must be mindful of rhetoric and megaphone diplomacy, particularly when they bypass elected representatives in Northern Ireland. It is inflammatory, to say the least, for EU officials to make such remarks. What is required is rational, fully inclusive dialogue that recognises that, for many, the protocol is not working and does not enjoy the support of quite a few of us in our society, and it is progressively poisoning the body politic here. That has to be the starting point.
Maroš Šefcovic has the opportunity today to address those issues directly. All Members of the Assembly should join us in asking him to do so. The people of Northern Ireland need solutions to the many problems caused by the protocol and not heightened tensions and the use of warlike rhetoric.