A businessman will seek a court order compelling the DUP to end the boycott of North-South political structures if he does not change his stance next week.
Belfast businessman Sean Napier was back in court on Friday to demand that the current ‘confused picture’ be cleared up after one of the party ministers failed to attend two cross-border meetings earlier during the day.
The DUP has pledged to disengage from North-South Ministerial Council (NSMC) structures, outside of meetings on health issues, as part of its protest against Northern Ireland’s Brexit protocol.
However, on Monday, a Belfast High Court judge, Judge Scoffield, declared the DUP’s position illegal.
Despite the move, DUP Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots did not attend two scheduled virtual meetings with his Irish ministerial counterparts on environmental issues on Friday.
Under Stormont’s rules, such meetings with the Irish government cannot take place without the participation of both a trade unionist and a nationalist minister in the Northern Ireland executive.
On Monday, the judge did not issue an order requiring the DUP to attend future meetings, but told Mr Napier – who brought the court challenge – that he could return to court to ask for one if the party did not follow up on its declaration of illegality.
Mr Napier and his legal team returned to the High Court on Friday afternoon.
After a brief hearing, Judge Scoffield allowed the respondents until close of business on Tuesday to respond, with the case due for reconsideration on Wednesday.
Speaking in court, attorney for businessman Paul Farrell said the next step in the process would be for his client to seek a specific court order, unless the DUP changes its position .
“The ball is very clearly in the DUP’s court as far as this is concerned, but Mr Napier is determined to see this matter through, so we look forward to the response from the DUP leadership and ministers by Wednesday of next week, “he said.
Asked what his client would do if the DUP persisted in the boycott, the lawyer added: “Mr. Napier’s instructions are to take the next step which would be to seek a court order regarding the DUP’s engagement. with the North. Southern Ministerial Council, as they are required to do.
“The law is very clear on this, so it is up to ministers and their leaders to explain what exactly is going on.”
Mr Napier said his main goal was to protect the Good Friday deal. He brought a copy of the peace agreement to the court.
“In 1998, as a young journalist, I was in the Stormont buildings when this was signed… to me, I feel a bit like a gatekeeper to this,” he said.
“It has been there for us, it has kept the peace here and it is imperative that it be properly implemented in all of its parts. It is not a la carte treaty, it is very important for what it has done for the greater good of the people here.
“So I think it’s my duty to be his guardian and today in court has been very positive, and we look forward to more positive protections for the Good Friday deal.”
The DUP claimed it technically did not boycott Friday’s meetings because it was not possible to formally schedule them after DUP Prime Minister Paul Givan refused to sign the agendas.
In line with the DUP promised exemption from its position on the NSMC, a north-south meeting on health issues was held on Thursday.
Sinn Fein Deputy Minister Declan Kearney, who was due to attend the second of Friday’s meetings, said the DUP “was playing the policy of train wrecks”.
“It is time for the DUP to put the interests of ordinary people first by ending this illegal boycott of vital government affairs and get back to work on behalf of everyone in our society,” he said. .
SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon, who was to attend the first meeting on maritime issues on Friday, accused the DUP of “unacceptable and totally dishonest” behavior.
She also questioned the value of the boycott, saying Thursday’s meeting was used to “realize” a series of other NSMC issues that were unrelated to health.
“It is astonishing, following the High Court ruling this week, that (DUP chief) Jeffrey Donaldson is overseeing a deliberate and illegal boycott of North-South institutions,” she said.
“It shows not only contempt for the rule of law, but also total disregard for the people we represent.
“It’s fundamentally dishonest as well – a wide range of NSMC activity was rushed at a health sector format meeting this week. So what exactly is the point of this tactic? The DUP leader should at least be honest with the people rather than having them walk halfway up the hill. “
The NSMC is a build of the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement and is designed to strengthen political cooperation on the island of Ireland. The peace agreement also includes structures to maintain and foster east-west relations with the island and Britain.
The DUP argues that North-South relations cannot continue normally when, according to them, the Northern Ireland Protocol and its economic barriers associated with Irish Sea trade have caused damage to East relations. Where is.