Mary Lou McDonald says Boris Johnson’s government was ‘not forthright’ about union work


ary Lou McDonald has said Boris Johnson’s government was not “in the forefront” of the unions, and was determined to act “in a unilateral manner”.

The feel fine The president also said she found Mr Johnson’s tenure as British Prime Minister difficult and frustrating, adding that there was a tendency to act “out of good faith”.

Ms McDonald was speaking in a pre-recorded interview for ITV show Peston as the former Tory leader voted against a key element of the latest agreement between the EU and the UK on the protocol.

The Windsor Framework was unveiled by the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen last month, and hailed as a major breakthrough in the outstanding post-Brexit trade problems Northern Ireland.

I think there was also an absolute determination to act in a unilateral way, to act outside of good faith

On Wednesday, Mr Johnson and members of the DUP were among 29 MPs to vote against the Stormont rema of the deal, with 515 votes in favour.

Mr Johnson, who agreed to the original protocol with Brussels as a way to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, said he would find the deal difficult to accept if aspects of EU law in Northern Ireland would remain in force.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the “bottom line” for the party to restore power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland was an assurance that EU law would undermine Northern Ireland’s ability to trade with the rest of the UK could not impede.

“Until that is resolved I cannot force the government to restore the political institutions – that is what I want to do, but we have to get this right,” he said.

Asked about the difference in tone since Mr Sunak took office, Ms McDonald said he appears to be aiming for a more stable relationship with the EU.

Boris Johnsonif he might be watching this program I wouldn’t be surprised if I say I found those times very, very difficult, very, very frustrating.

“I think the Johnson government was not at all open to union work, to Irish union leadership, which was a problem for all of us.

“And I think there was also an absolute determination to act in a unilateral way, to act outside of good faith.

“And I can only hope, and I suppose only time will tell, whether or not the new Prime Minister will consistently comply with international law, act in partnership with others and maintain the necessary healthy dynamic relations between Ireland and Great Britain will recover – but also with our European partners.”

Ms McDonald said there were still “substantial grounds for optimism” about a breakthrough that would see the return of power-sharing institutions, adding that it was “a full-speed case” on the Windsor Framework.

“I have taken note of Jeffrey Donaldson’s comments today…he believes that at this stage a return to Stormont is not possible. I disagree with him on that point.”

Ms McDonald said at a time when the eyes of the world would be on Northern Ireland for the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement there was “an immediacy to seize the opportunities as they arise”.

When asked about a possible referendum on Irish unity, Ms McDonald said the party “wants to involve everyone” in discussions leading up to such a vote.

“I believe we will have the referenda over the course of this decade,” she said.

“I want to start and deepen the preparatory work where we have a conversation with all of society about what Ireland will look like in the next 10 years, the next 20 years, the next 25 years, and we want everyone involved in that.

“But I absolutely believe we will have the referendums, I absolutely believe we can win those referendums and I believe we can build an incredible new democratic dispensation on this island.”

She also said the party is “open” to discussions on reforming aspects of the Good Friday Agreement.

“So we are open to all those conversations, being aware only of the absolute necessity of preserving and protecting the essence of the Good Friday Agreement and of power sharing – the essence of equality of prestige, equality.

“And then, of course, parity of protection for minority rights. Those are really central to the Good Friday Agreement.”