03 March 2023

Windsor Framework gives enough to end Stormont stalemate, says Starmer

03 March 2023

The Windsor Framework “gives enough” to end the Stormont stalemate, Sir Keir Starmer believes.

The Labour leader said he is glad the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is taking time to consider the new deal agreed by the UK and EU which was unveiled on Monday.

He backed the Prime Minister’s decision not to rush the DUP, and described the deal as “welcome”, adding that there is now a “window of opportunity”.

“I think the Prime Minister is right to give the DUP and others the space to study it, to come to a considered view,” he told broadcasters in Londonderry on Friday.

“I hope that will create the consensus that we need to move forward.”

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been in flux for more than a year while the DUP refused to take part until the party’s concerns around the Brexit protocol are addressed.

Earlier, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said the Government will legislate to reassure unionists that their constitutional position in the United Kingdom is secure.

He said he hoped that with time and space the new UK-EU deal would pave the way for the return of the powersharing institutions.

Sir Keir spent the day in Derry, visiting St Columb’s College, and later the Ulster University for the official opening of the Mo Mowlam Studio.

On Friday morning he was questioned by school students at St Columb’s College as part of an event organised by the John and Pat Hume Foundation.

When asked by a student if he believed the Windsor Framework was enough to end the stalemate at Stormont, Sir Keir said he did.

“I do. I’m always conscious that it’s very important for communities and political parties here to be comfortable with the progress that we make, and when I was here working 20 years or so ago, I was always reticent about being the person who came along to tell people in Northern Ireland what I thought they ought to think,” he said.

“But I do genuinely think that this is a real opportunity, I felt that before we even saw the text, over the last month/six weeks I could feel that the UK and EU were moving closer together.

“This is a good thing, I’m a great believer in bridge building and bringing people together.

I'm really glad the DUP are taking time to carefully consider it. I do hope that allows them to get to a position where we move forward

“I do think there is enough, it is a compromise, that’s the nature of any agreement but if it gives us the space to move forward, which I think it will, if it leads to Stormont running again, I think that’s really good and so I think this is a real opportunity.”

He added: “I’m glad that the DUP is taking their time to look at it carefully, and we were very careful in saying we supported the protocol but it is important it has the greatest consensus possible.

“I’m really glad the DUP are taking time to carefully consider it. I do hope that allows them to get to a position where we move forward. I feel there is an opportunity there.”

Later at the Ulster University camp in the city, Sir Keir attended the opening of a newly refurbished cinematic arts studio named after former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the late Mo Mowlam.

The studio and a new mural were unveiled in memory of Ms Mowlam’s impact as the first in a programme of events the university is organising for 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

Ulster University Provost Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan said they were “paying homage to the legacy of an inspirational leader who played an instrumental role in the signing of the Good Friday Agreement”.

Sir Keir described Ms Mowlam as a “true political force with an unwavering dedication to peace” who “helped pave the way for the Good Friday Agreement”.

“Mo loved the people of Northern Ireland, and was passionate about securing better opportunities for the next generation. I’m honoured to see her legacy celebrated with the opening of the Mo Mowlam Studio at Ulster University’s campus in Derry today,” he said.

Ms Mowlam’s stepchildren Freddie and Henrietta Norton also attended.

They spoke of their pride to see her life and legacy celebrated, and said for someone passionate about the power of education, “there could not be a more fitting tribute”.

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