Incoming prime minister Liz Truss has been urged to prioritise the restoration of powersharing in Northern Ireland by Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill.
However, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson instead insisted that Ms Truss should concentrate on resolving issues caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol, and added there could be no return to powersharing without “decisive action” on the post-Brexit arrangement.
Northern Ireland’s political leaders have been reacting following the news that Ms Truss has defeated Rishi Sunak in the race to be Conservative Party leader and the UK’s next prime minister.
However, the arrangement is deeply unpopular with unionists because it includes checks on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The Government is progressing a Bill, introduced by Ms Truss, to give ministers powers to override parts of the agreement.
But Michelle O’Neill said it was time for UK Government to stop “pandering to the DUP” as she called for an urgent meeting with the incoming prime minister.
She said: “Liz Truss has an opportunity to come in now and stop pandering to the DUP, stop pandering to the approach which is damaging to our ability to help people through the cost of living crisis,” she said.
“What we need to see now is a change of tack, a change of policy, a change of approach,” Ms O’Neill said.
But the DUP leader said he had already written to the new PM asking her to prioritise progressing the legislation which deals with the impacts of the protocol.
“So, in tackling the cost of living, the prime minister must continue to tackle the consequences of the protocol because we want to see that dealt with decisively.”
Sir Jeffrey said there was currently no cross-community consensus for the Stormont institutions to operate.
Naomi Long, leader of the cross-community Alliance Party, said Liz Truss had a “window of opportunity” to make her mark on Northern Ireland.
She added: “As such, she can make a positive impact on Northern Ireland by engaging in sensible discussions with the EU around the protocol, and pursuing reforms to the Assembly and Executive in order to secure their return and future-proof both.
He said: “They need to find solutions and those solutions must help get our executive back up and running again because every day without an executive our people are suffering.”
SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood said there would be “no honeymoon period” for the new Conservative leader.
Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said any “sensible unionist would judge Liz Truss not by her words but by her actions”.
“First and foremost the challenge for the prime minister is to take back sovereignty over this United Kingdom and to end the ill-gotten sovereignty of the EU and restore Northern Ireland as a full and complete part of the United Kingdom,” he said.