DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said Chuck Schumer needs to read history books, after the US Senate Majority Leader urged the DUP to return to Stormont.
The comments were made at the annual Ireland Funds dinner in Washington, which was attended by Irish political leaders including Leo Varadkar and powerful American figures like Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy and Mr. Schumer, the top Senate politician.
Mr Schumer used his address to encourage the DUP to endorse the Windsor framework, the new post-UK-EUBrexit agreement announced last month.
“Now the Windsor framework has been announced,” Mr Schumer said, “I sincerely hope it clears the way for the DUP to join Sinn Fein in a power-sharing deal.”
“I say to all parties in the North, but especially the DUP, let’s get to the people’s business, the business of power-sharing and autonomy.”
He added that “as the majority leader of the UNITED STATES Senate, which decides treaties, I will not support any trade deal between the United States and the United Kingdom if a settlement undermines the Good Friday Agreement.”
Sir Jeffrey told Sky News: ‘I would urge the senator to read some history books. Maybe he would learn a bit more about what is really going on and the reality of the situation.’
The DUP says the Windsor frame is a step in the right direction, but maintains that some areas need change. The party seeks to Rishi Sunak to intervene and make the necessary changes before considering returning to power sharing.
“We say the [UK] the government needs to go further and dig deeper to ensure that what we get not only works for the here and now, but is future-proof,” Sir Jeffrey added.
The run-up to St. Patrick’s Day saw the traditional exodus of Irish political leaders to the United States.
Before meeting with Joe Biden On Friday, the Irish prime minister told Sky News it was “a very sensitive moment in this process”.
Asked about the possibility of making changes to the new post-Brexit deal, Mr Varadkar said: “It’s not for me to speak on behalf of others. What happened is that we have finally an agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Commission which has been approved by the Irish government, as well as by the British government.
“Ultimately it will be a decision of the UK Prime Minister when he goes ahead and what he decides to do with his own national legislation.”
Expect delicate language from Irish government as focus remains on DUP
Leo Varadkar has a reputation for sometimes getting in hot water with his outspoken answers. But in this interview with Sky News, the Irish leader showed restraint and discipline when repeatedly asked about what he wanted the DUP to do about the Windsor frame.
An outside observer might think, weeks after the deal was jubilantly announced by London and Brussels, that the Irish government could increase pressure on the biggest Unionist party to accept the deal and put Stormont back to work .
But Mr Varadkar’s staunch refusal to speak out strongly reflects the belief in Dublin that Sir Jeffery needs time and space to agree to the deal. For now, the public position of the DUP is that – like the protocol – real changes are needed to the text of the Windsor Framework.
Privately, many believe the party leader is keen to find a way to return to power-sharing without rejecting the new deal altogether. But he must take with him the hard wing of his party. And that task would be made much more difficult if he were seen to be yielding to any pressure from south of the border.
As St. Patrick’s Week events continue in the US capital, expect some sensitive language from the Irish government as the focus remains on the DUP. Whether Joe Biden is also a diplomat on Friday is another matter.
The Irish leader declined to say what his message to Sir Jeffrey was, saying his conversations would remain private.
Asked if the UK government had erred in labeling the Windsor framework deal and implicating King Charles in an open attempt to woo trade unionists, Mr Varadkar said Dublin had no objections at the time.
The Taoiseach said “we were asked if we were comfortable using the term Windsor Framework and we said yes”.
“What matters to us from the start is substance,” Mr. Varadkar added.
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He also spoke of his hopes for a good working relationship with Mr. Sunak, whom he has yet to meet in person.
“I think he is serious,” Mr Varadkar said of the British prime minister. “There is a real opportunity to restore Anglo-Irish relations to where they were before Brexit. They were really good before Brexit.”
The US President is expected to give more details on next month’s visit to the island of ireland during Friday’s bilateral meeting with the Taoiseach.
Mr Biden is also expected to reiterate his administration’s support for the Windsor framework and encourage all parties in Northern Ireland to endorse it.