A slur by a DUP councillor on First Minister-designate Michelle O’Neill has derailed a bid by the party to prevent port checks they claim amount to an ‘Irish Sea Border’.
The DUP has put forward a motion to block local councils in the North from “implementing any aspect” of the Irish Protocol of Brexit, which seeks to insulate the Good Friday Agreement from Brexit and the potential return of a hard border through Ireland.
The motion will attempt to instruct staff to refuse to carry out any checks on goods, such as food items, required by the Protocol. The DUP is also protesting against what it describes as “regulatory divergence” between the north of Ireland and Britain.
It comes days after it emerged a key protocol scheme had been approved by the unionist-controlled Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council in County Antrim. But within hours of the strategy emerging, the DUP’s hatred for Sinn Féin sabatoged itself in the area where it could theoretically have had an impact, at the Port of Larne.
What had been a combined DUP/TUV majority of 21 of the 40 councillors fell to 20 of 39 councillors after the suspension of Councillor Marc Collins over false allegations about Sinn Féin MP John Finucane.
Collins claimed without foundation that Mr Finucane “supports and promotes the IRA” and “isn’t innocent by any means”. Mr Finucane is the son of murdered defence lawyer Pat Finucane, who was killed by a British state death squad in 1989 following false claims that he was an “IRA lawyer”.
And just hours after the DUP tactic was revealed, a second DUP councillor on the council was suspended by the local government commissioner for a derogatory comments about the Sinn Féin Stormont leader, Michelle O’Neill.
Councillor John Carson said that she should be “put back in her kennel”, recalling the sectarian and dehumanising slurs directed against nationalists in the past.
Without Mr Carson, the combined DUP and TUV majority vote on the council is lost without support from the UUP or one of three independent councillors.
The DUP continues to boycott powersharing at Stormont until legislation is passed at Westminster which reneges on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and the Good Friday Agerement. If maintained, that stance should trigger fresh elections to Stormont by the end of this month.
On Wednesday, Michelle O’Neill repeated her call for the powersharing institutions to be restored immediately. People in the North should not be made to go to the polls again before Christmas, she said: “The people spoke, and the people asked for a functioning executive, they asked for us to make politics work”.