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DUP using a form of 'coercive control' to get agreement on Northern Ireland coronavirus restrictions

A former deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland has accused the DUP of using a form of "coerci...
Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

10.56 14 Nov 2020


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DUP using a form of 'coercive...

DUP using a form of 'coercive control' to get agreement on Northern Ireland coronavirus restrictions

Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

10.56 14 Nov 2020


Share this article


A former deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland has accused the DUP of using a form of "coercive control" to get an agreement on COVID-19 restrictions.

Parties voted to extend the north's four-week circuit-break lockdown by a further week, but only after days of negotiations during which a number of proposals were vetoed by the DUP.

The Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann said the extension of restrictions were required to prevent “excess deaths.”

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It comes as 11 new COVID-related deaths and 607 new cases of the virus were confirmed there yesterday.

The DUP's stance on coronavirus restrictions was described as “just absolutely appalling” by Dr Gabriel Scally, the former Director of Public Health for Belfast, who said the lack of an all-island approach to the virus is a “real failure of political leadership” on both sides of the border.

Speaking today, the former Deputy First Minister and SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the DUP's use of a cross-community voting mechanism was "downright irresponsible".

He told Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh that the DUP had "set it sights" on the restrictions ending at midnight last night and that they would only agree to an extension "on their own terms".

He added that two proposals put forward by Mr Swann on foot of recommendations from the Chief Medical Officer were vetoed by the DUP.

Mr Durkan said: "The Health Minister, because he didn't want the restrictions to fall at midnight last night completely, and other ministers didn't want that from Sinn Féin and the SDLP and Alliance, he presented a compromise.

"Now the DUP call that an agreement and it isn't an agreement, it's like a form of coercive control where the Health Minister, in good conscience to keep the restrictions going from midnight last night, has had to agree on something that he himself says isn't right.

"He has also been careful to protect his position and the credibility of the Chief Medical Officer by saying he may well have to come back with further requests to extend the restrictions in the face of high death rates, high admission rates that are still currently taking place in the north.

"When we compare the figures north and south in circumstances when the south is in Level 5 restrictions, the idea that the north, courtesy of the DUP, is is easing restrictions and not trying to bring any more restrictions back is downright irresponsible.

"I have an awful lot of sympathy for the position the Health Minister finds himself in."

'Tortuous four days'

Mr Durkan says some healthcare workers in Northern Ireland were "appalled" by comments made by Arlene Foster this week.

The DUP leader said yesterday that the days of disagreement in Stormont on the new restrictions had been a "torturous example of how not to take decisions".

Mr Durkan said: "She's talking about having a tortuous four days, she caused those tortuous four days for herself and everybody else.

"People working in the health service would be lucky to just have a tortuous four days.

"They are looking for people to be responsible in government, but also looking for all of us in the public to be responsible in our behaviour.

"But then you see the disregard shown in government because some imperative was created in the DUP."

He added: "When it comes to public health, they have made themselves calendar-led not condition-led, completely dismissive of what the Chief Medical Officer has said."

He said it was "completely dishonest" of Arlene Foster to say "she is glad she got a compromise" that is supported by the Health Minister.

DUP using a form of 'coercive control' to get agreement on Northern Ireland coronavirus restrictions

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Main image: The Stormont parliament buildings in east Belfast. Photo by Paul McErlane/Xinhua

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Circuit Breaker DUP Dr Gabriel Scally Former First Minister Mark Durkan Northern Ireland Northern Ireland Covid-19 Restrictions SDLP Sinn Fein

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