Friday 20 September 2019

Irish minister compares Boris Johnson to Oliver Cromwell over 'anti-democratic decision' to suspend UK parliament

Lord Protector of England Oliver Cromwell.
Lord Protector of England Oliver Cromwell.
Minister Michael D'Arcy
Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Dylan Martinez/Reuters
Photo: PA
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay signs the commencement agreement for Britain to leave the EU. Photo: REUTERS

Philip Ryan and Cormac McQuinn

A Government minister has branded Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend the UK parliament as “anti-democratic” and compared the Prime Minister to controversial British coloniser Oliver Cromwell.

Minister of State Michael D’Arcy tweeted that Mr Johnson’s decision to seek a suspension of the House of Commons was the “most anti-democratic” decision by a prime minister since Oliver Cromwell established a “protectorate government” in the 1600s.

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Minister Michael D'Arcy

“This was a military dictatorship,” he wrote. “Cromwell dismissed his parliament when they disagreed with him,” he added.

Mr D’Arcy deleted the tweet an hour after he posted the comment on the social media platform.

Cromwell was an English military and political leader who infamously enacted a series of brutal military actions in Ireland, including massacring civilians.

Sources close to Mr D’Arcy said he was not given clearance by the upper echelons of Government to tweet the criticism of the UK Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has repeating the EU's warning that the Withdrawal Agreement won't be reopened during a meeting with UK Brexit secretary Steve Barclay today.

The 45-minute meeting took place at the Irish Embassy in Paris, with a spokesman for Mr Coveney saying that the latest developments in Westminister were not discussed as they are an "internal British matter".

Britain has been plunged into a political crisis after Mr Johnson scheduled a Queen's speech for October 14 which would have the effect of suspending Parliament.

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Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

Mr Johnson has denied he's trying to prevent Parliament from blocking his Brexit plans to leave the EU with or without a deal,but the move has outraged political opponents.

Both Mr Coveney and Mr Barclay are this afternoon addressing business leaders at a major event held by the Medef enterprise lobby group in the French capital this afternoon.

Mr Coveney's spokesman told Independent.ie that the Tánaiste "relayed the consistent and long held position of the EU and Ireland and spoke of the compromise between the UK and the EU that led to the Withdrawal Agreement."

He also raised concern over the "vulnerability of Northern Ireland to a no deal outcome and the importance of the peace process and all-island economy."

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Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay signs the commencement agreement for Britain to leave the EU. Photo: REUTERS

Mr Coveney is said to have "repeated that the Irish and British government’s responsibilities to the peace process go beyond Brexit".

The spokesman added: "The Tánaiste reiterated that the Withdrawal Agreement was not up for renegotiation but already allowed for viable and sound alternatives to the backstop to be brought forward.

"He encouraged the UK government to bring any viable alternatives they have to the EU."

Later in his speech at the Medef conference Mr Coveney insisted that a no-deal Brexit would be a British choice, not one made by Ireland or  the EU.

Mr Coveney was asked about Mr Johnson's move to suspend parliament by reporters after the conference.

He said: "My reaction is that this is a matter for the British Parliament.

"My focus is on trying to find a way of getting a deal that's consistent with the commitments that the British government has made over the last two years to Ireland and the European Union."

The Tánaiste said "it's hard to tell" whether the suspension will make a crash-out Brexit more likley.

"It's hard to tell how the British political system will respond to that and really that's a matter for parliament," he said.

"I've always been careful not to get involved in the parliamentary business of Westminster."

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Photo: PA

Mr Coveney said Brexit will have a "huge" disruptive impact on Ireland and there is a shared responsibility with the British government to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

He referred to remarks by Mr Barclay that Britain was willing to offer a "cast-iron guarantee" to avoid a hard border if the backstop is dropped and talks on the issue take place during a transition period.

Mr Coveney said: "Unfortunately what we're hearing again from the British minister for Brexit is that Britain no longer seems to be committed to the approach [the backstop] that we know solves the problem at hand."

He said they want "everything to move forward... on the basis of a promise that we will try to deal with the complexities of these issues at some point in the future."

Mr Coveney added "we can't give up on something we know works on the back of a promise like that".

He said: "Ultimately, the answers lie with Westminster, as they have always done... No amount of political grandstanding, or attempts to shift the blame, change this fact."

In his speech Mr Barclay said that in the future people may wonder why the EU was not more flexible in seeking to reach a deal.

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