Boris Johnson’s government is “continually imposing regulations and laws” without listening to people in Northern Ireland, according to Labour’s new shadow secretary of state for the region.
Peter Kyle expressed worries over the government’s Brexit policies and plans to tackle the legacy of the Troubles and said that, by contrast, he wants to “listen and learn” to Northern Irish people.
“It is my absolute conviction to be a voice for the whole of Northern Ireland in Westminster, and in order to do that I need to meet as many people as I can, I need to listen as much as I can and I need to build as many relationships as possible,” he told PA news agency.
Northern Ireland ‘not in control of its destiny’
Kyle warned the region risks a tough situation if Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol is triggered, as it would be threatening the agreement signed by the EU and the UK to avoid a hard border in Ireland post-Brexit.
He said: “We know that Northern Ireland is in the front line of the Brexit challenge, that it is facing a real cliff edge at the moment with the potential of Article 16 being triggered.
“We have a government in Westminster which is continually imposing regulations and laws on Northern Ireland.
“It doesn’t feel like Northern Ireland is in control of its own destiny. I want to revive the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.”
He added: “It has been a source of frustration to me that the Westminster government has too often been imposing views on Northern Ireland or not taking Northern Ireland’s views into consideration whilst very significant policies are being formulated that will profoundly impact Northern Ireland.
“That is something that the Labour Party is reconciled to changing, bringing life back into the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement.”
Kyle also said he is worried about UK government proposals to end prosecutions for Troubles offences, a move opposed by all parties in NI, the Irish government as well as the conflict’s victims.
He said: “The thing that really, really worries me about the Government’s approach is that it is dictating from the top what victims should be doing and feeling and when it is right for them to move on.
“Only victims can decide when it is right to move on and how they move on. They must be in the driving seat of any policy – right now I don’t think they are even in the car.”Earlier this year, Northern Ireland justice minister Naomi Long said the prime minister has been “blasé” in treating some of the fallout from Brexit, whilst expressing concerns from troubles in Belfast described as the ‘worst since 1970s’ by one community worker.