DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has hit out at unionist critics of his deal with the Government, accusing some of them of living in a “bygone era”.
Sir Jeffrey said that many of those who have attacked the agreement which paves the way for the restoration of the powersharing institutions simply do not want Stormont to return.
The DUP leader spoke to the media alongside Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris at Hillsborough Castle hours after the Government unveiled proposals which will remove post-Brexit checks on goods shipped from Great Britain to final destinations in Northern Ireland.
While Sir Jeffrey has stated the deal is enough for his party to return devolved government to Northern Ireland, some unionists and loyalists have been critical, with TUV leader Jim Allister branding the DUP “protocol implementers”.
The DUP leader had previously appeared alongside Mr Allister at rallies in opposition to the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.
But Sir Jeffrey responded by challenging Mr Allister to state what progress he had made to address unionist concerns over post-Brexit trading arrangements.
He said: “Some of those who are our critics really don’t want Stormont back – that is the reality.”
Some, he said, live in a “bygone era”.
“Yes, I did share platforms with people. And all of us declared what our objectives were, all of us.
“The difference between me and those who are my critics tonight is very clear and very simple – I got off the platform and went and did something to secure my objectives.
“My critics got off the platform and did nothing.”
He added: “I can demonstrate very clearly what we have delivered and it’s there for everyone to read.
“My question to my critics is: ‘What have you delivered? What change have you secured?’
“Well, I have to say that I think if they were to set out in a paper the changes that they have secured, that’s what it would look like.”
Holding aloft the blank back page of the deal he had struck with the Government, he continued: “A big blank sheet of nothing.”
Another vocal critic of the DUP’s approach has been loyalist activist Jamie Bryson, who has challenged Sir Jeffrey to a public debate with him or Mr Allister over the new agreement.
The DUP leader said: “I will wait on their response to my challenge. I say to Jim Allister: you publish a document setting out the changes you have secured to the Windsor Framework, the changes you have secured to the Northern Ireland Protocol, the changes you have secured to safeguard Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom.
“When Jim has given us a credible response which demonstrates the change he has delivered on all of these things, then I’ll consider a discussion.”
Sir Jeffrey also responded to reports that some roads may be blocked as part of loyalist protests against the return of Stormont.
He said: “How will blocking roads in Northern Ireland deliver change? How will that restore Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom? How will that make Northern Ireland work?”