Express & Star

Restoring devolved government was my priority for Northern Ireland – Sunak

The Prime Minister was speaking during a visit to Belfast as part of campaigning for the General Election.

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak has said that restoring devolved government in Northern Ireland was one of his priorities when he first became Prime Minister.

Speaking during a visit to Belfast, Mr Sunak defended his Government’s track record in the region, insisting that he cared deeply about people in Northern Ireland and was optimistic about its future.

The Prime Minister visited an advanced maritime manufacturing facility in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter as part of his whistlestop tour of the UK after calling the General Election for July 4.

He rode on a small zero-emission boat manufactured by Artemis Technologies, a company that has received Government funding to support its work.

General Election campaign 2024
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was accompanied by Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Sunak, accompanied by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, spoke to staff from Artemis and took part in some of the manufacturing processes.

The Conservative Party only runs a small number of candidates in Northern Ireland.

However, Mr Sunak denied that his visit to the region was a waste of time, pointing to his efforts to restore the powersharing institutions which were collapsed when he came into office.

He said: “I am here because I care deeply about the people of Northern Ireland and our union. This is the fifth or sixth time I have been here in the time I’ve been Prime Minister.

“I am really optimistic and excited about Northern Ireland’s future.”

He added: “When I got this job, Chris (Heaton-Harris) and I sat down, and we wanted to do everything we could to ensure that people in Northern Ireland had their devolved government up and running, which hadn’t been in place for years.

“You all know that better than me and the impact it was having on people here and public services, so I made it a priority.

“Quietly working behind the scenes with Chris, not just to get the with the Windsor Framework agreed, but then also to get the executive up and running.

“And I’m really pleased and proud that we’ve been able to achieve that and in the process ensure not only does Northern Ireland have the representation it deserves that it feels part, properly, of our United Kingdom as it should and that was a priority for me and a priority for Chris.

“As I said earlier as evidence of my willingness to take bold action, because of the times that we live in.

“That’s what is required. You need to be prepared to take bold action.

“You need to have a plan that you stick to even when it’s difficult and people are criticising you, because that’s how you deliver a secure future.

“That’s what we’ve done for the people of Northern Ireland. That’s the choice at this election.”

The DUP ended its two-year boycott of devolved government in Northern Ireland in February after striking a deal with the Government which the unionist party’s leadership said met concerns over post-Brexit trading arrangements and sovereignty.

With the Assembly restored, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill became the first nationalist First Minister of Northern Ireland.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.