DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has been caught making a series of false claims in an attempt to win support for the party’s position on the Irish Protocol of Brexit.
Donaldson has been urged to retract the untrue statements as well as other claims seeking to escalate tensions.
The Protocol allows the north of Ireland to uniquely trade freely with both the EU and Britain. Polls show strong support for the measure, with businesses in the North increasingly vocal in their support.
Donaldson has been making false claims in an attempt to discredit the protocol for some time. He has now dramatically claimed access to general medicines has been “impaired and inhibited” before the lie was exposed by two health boards and the British Medical Association (BMA). A further claim that the protocol has caused delays in life-saving heart surgery was also dismissed.
Donaldson initially made the claim in relation to the Belfast Health Trust. After it responded saying there was “no substance” to the claim, Donaldson said the delay occurred in the Southern Health Trust. However, that board also refuted the claim, and went further to suggest the protocol had actually eased the importation of medical equipment from Germany.
Alan Stout from the British Medical Association (BMA) said that during a recent crisis meeting on healthcare provision, nobody mentioned the protocol at all.
“The protocol and the supply of medicines did not come up once in that crisis meeting,” he said.
He hit out the DUP over their failure to provide leadership and governance as health services face into a difficult winter.
“The crisis meeting was about support; about funding; about managing the demand, which is huge at the moment. It’s about having some sort of political leadership and political accountability for the difficulties that we face at the moment.”
The Lagan Valley MP has also faced calls for an apology over false claims about intimidation of unionist students at Queen’s University. The university said they had no knowledge of any such incidents. Nationalists believe the claims ae an attempt by the DUP to exacerbate sectarian divisions ahead of an expected election.
Donaldson has refused to comment further about his statements, but Sinn Féin health spokesperson Colm Gildernew criticised the DUP leader for his remarks.
“Our hospitals, patients and our health service staff are already huge pressure in the real world,” he said. “What our health service needs is parties working together to support them during a difficult winter.”
SDLP health spokesperson Colin McGrath said the DUP needed to “stop playing politics with our health service”, while People Before Profit’s Gerry Carroll accused Donaldson of “sowing division and confusion amongst the public” with “unsubstantiated and incredibly divisive” claims.
“The DUP leader is raising tensions at a time of deep political turmoil,” he said.