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PM Starmer wraps up U.Okay. tour after go to to Nothern Ireland


Britain’s Prime Minister Keir Starmer (2ndR) and Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary Hilary Benn (R) meet with Northern Ireland’s First Minister Michelle O’Neill (2ndL) and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly (L) at Stormont Castle in Belfast on July 8, 2024. Starmer made his first go to as UK prime minister to Northern Ireland, with hopes excessive on each side of the political divide that relations will enhance after years of Brexit turmoil.
| Photo Credit: AFP

New Prime Minister Keir Starmer on July 8 wrapped up a whistlestop tour of the U.Okay., promising Northern Ireland’s leaders “a different way of doing politics” following years of Brexit turmoil.

Mr. Starmer, whose centre-left Labour get together gained final week’s common election, ended the two-day tour in Cardiff, assembly get together allies heading Wales’ devolved authorities, after additionally visiting Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In Belfast, he met the leaders of the U.Okay. province’s power-sharing government and different events on the Stormont parliament buildings.

“I’ve been very clear that my government has a mandate for change, for stability here in Northern Ireland and a different way of doing politics,” Mr. Starmer mentioned after the talks.

He had met First Minister Michelle O’Neill, of the pro-Irish unity Sinn Fein, in addition to the get together’s president Mary Lou McDonald, alongside deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly, of the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Northern Ireland’s events appeared united in hoping Starmer can enhance stability and engagement, in addition to relations with Dublin, after strained ties beneath his Conservative predecessors.

Ms. McDonald advised reporters the talks had been “very constructive” and expressed “happiness” that “the party of the Good Friday Agreement, the Labour Party, is now back in government in London”.

‘Fundamentals have not modified’

The Sinn Fein chief mentioned she reminded Mr. Starmer that “referendums, provision for referendums and charting our future together” are on the “very core” of the landmark peace accord, brokered by Tony Blair’s Labour authorities in 1998.

“We want this British government to be at the heart of honouring that agreement, fulfilling that agreement, in all of its parts,” she added.

Sinn Fein held on to its seven seats eventually Thursday’s election to change into the most important Northern Ireland get together within the U.Okay. parliament in London.

It overtook its principal DUP rival, which misplaced three of its eight seats, two of them to rival unionist events.

Analysts see the consequence as permitting Sinn Fein, which doesn’t take up its seats within the House of Commons as a result of it opposes British sovereignty in Northern Ireland, to say continued momentum in the direction of an eventual referendum, or “border poll”, on Irish unity.

The get together, the previous political wing of the paramilitary IRA throughout the Troubles — the three-decade sectarian battle over British rule in Northern Ireland — can be the most important at council stage and within the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly.

But James Pow, a politics lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast, advised AFP “the fundamentals haven’t changed”, pointing to roughly equal mixed vote share on the election between nationalist and unionist events.


Mr. Starmer and his newly appointed Northern Ireland secretary, Hilary Benn, “won’t feel forced to put a border poll on the agenda, at most some pressure to outline procedural criteria for a poll to take place”.

Pro-U.Okay. unionists have traditionally allied with the U.Okay. Conservative get together and been cautious of Labour, however few are shedding any tears over the Tories’ defeat after 14 turbulent years in energy.

“He has the opportunity to make significant changes and advance things positively,” DUP chief Gavin Robinson mentioned after his get together had a “productive discussion” with Starmer.

Post-Brexit buying and selling guidelines agreed to by the DUP are seen by some unionists as erecting a de facto “sea border” between the British mainland and the province, undermining its place throughout the wider U.Okay.

Unionists “hope that Mr. Starmer might prioritise tighter alignment with the EU, which could in turn mitigate the impact of the sea border, if not remove it”, Pow mentioned.

Meanwhile, Labour’s manifesto dedicated to scrapping a controversial “Legacy Act” that prompted Dublin to sue London on the European Court of Human Rights.

The legislation, which got here into impact in May, halted inquests into Troubles-era crimes, together with many who allegedly concerned British safety forces, and granted conditional immunity to perpetrators.

“There’s no wriggle room on that, Labour has to remove it,” Jon Tonge, a politics professor at Liverpool University, advised AFP.

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