Boris Johnson’s failure to contact the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar since becoming British Prime Minister has been branded “highly discourteous” by Sinn Féin.
Vice president Michelle O’Neill raised the lack of communication between Mr Johnson and Leo Varadkar during a meeting with Northern Ireland’s new secretary of state Julian Smith at Stormont today.
“I would judge that it is highly discourteous that the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson is not engaging with the Taoiseach,” she said.
“Not least given the implications of Brexit on the island of Ireland, not least given the jeopardy it brings to our people.”
It comes as the British Prime Minister visits Scotland to meet Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Mr Johnson said: “The backstop is no good. It’s dead. It has got to go. The withdrawal agreement is dead, it’s got to go. But there is scope to do a new deal.”
“We are talking to the Irish today what the limits are, what we want to do, and we are very confident that with goodwill on both sides, two mature political entities, the UK and the EU, can get this thing done.”
Ms O’Neill said Mr Smith did not offer an explanation as to why there had been no contact between the leaders.
She said it was not up to her who made the first move in initiating a conversation.
“Whoever phones who first, the issue that needs to be discussed are the implications, the catastrophic implications for the island of Ireland so I think whenever the Taoiseach and Boris Johnson speak at some stage I think the message will be very, very clear from An Taoiseach – which will be around Brexit, the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement, it will be around the fact the withdrawal agreement needs to be adhered to and agreed because this is what the British government negotiated themselves a short time ago,” she said.
“British-Irish relations are very important, that does strike right to the heart of the Good Friday Agreement, but the jeopardy that the British government want to bring to our people on this island cannot be understated – it is huge, it’s going to impact for generations to come.”
Ms O’Neill said the rhetoric from Downing Street and the “right-wing cabinet” did not suggest there was going to be a Brexit deal achieved by the October deadline.
She said she did not know Mr Johnson’s motivation in threatening to leave the EU without an agreement.
“Is he electioneering, is he bluffing, is he trying to strengthen his hand in a negotiation? I don’t know is the answer,” she said.
“What I am fixated on, what I am concerned about is what it means for the people here.”
“The language we have heard from Downing Street and the cabinet team over the course of the weekend has been very frightening for people on the ground.”
She rejected the suggestion the British Government might move to legislate to introduce direct rule in Northern Ireland ahead of the October 31 Brexit deadline, if devolution has not be restored by then.
“Direct rule is not acceptable, we cannot go backwards, we can only go forwards,” she said.
The Sinn Féin Vice president said she told Mr Smith he could not be a “bystander” in negotiations to restore powersharing, insisting “rights-based issues” at the heart of the impasse, such as Irish language protections, remained unresolved.