Mon, 23 May 2022

LONDON, May 9 (Xinhua) -- The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland on Monday dashed hopes of the devolved government in Belfast being restored.

Jeffrey Donaldson made the DUP's position clear during a face-to-face meeting with the United Kingdom's (UK) Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis.

Lewis was in Belfast on Monday for a series of meetings with political leaders following last week's elections.

For the first time in history, the pro-republican Sinn Fein Party won most seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly, overtaking the DUP.

This means that Sinn Fein leader Michelle O'Neill will be nominated as first minister and Donaldson as her deputy.

Under the assembly's rules, the executive cannot be formed unless the top two parties agree to participate.

Unionist politicians have held the top positions in Northern Ireland since its creation in 1921.

Sinn Fein's success brings closer the prospect of a border poll to decide if Northern Ireland should merge with the Republic of Ireland.

"Until we get decisive action taken by the UK government on the (Northern Ireland) protocol, we will not be nominating ministers to the executive," Donaldson told journalists on Monday. "We want to see stable political institutions. We want to be part of the executive."

The protocol is a deal brokered between London and Brussels as part of the UK's departure from the European Union. Its aim was to avoid a land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

"We want to play our part and fulfil the mandate we have been given by the people of Northern Ireland," Donaldson said. "We are also clear given the damage and harmful impact the protocol continues to have on Northern Ireland, driving up the cost of living, harming our economy, impeding the ability of businesses to trade with our biggest market and fundamentally undermining political stability, undermining the principle of consensus politics. We need this to be resolved."

This could leave Northern Ireland without a government for up to six months before a new executive is formed.

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