DUP boycott of meetings with Irish ministers illegal, court rulings – Politics live | politics
Mr Justice Scoffield made the statement in Belfast High Court after a Belfast man Sean Napier launched a judicial review of the legality of the DUP case.
The case revolved around DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s announcement last month that his party would withdraw from meetings of the North-South Council of Ministers (NSMC) as part of its opposition campaign against the Protocol.
Mr Justice Scoffield said: “The respondents’ decision to resign from the North-South Council of Ministers was and is illegal.
“It’s frustrating, contrary to, and contrary to, the legal obligations of Part 5 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.”
He said the wording of the statement had been agreed by the lawyer for both the complainant and the defendants.
Mr Justice Scoffield said: “The legal system in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement is intended to ensure that an appropriate minister must attend the North-South Council of Ministers, or at least nominate another minister to take his place.
“The evidence clearly indicated that individual DUP ministers were neither present nor nominated any other unionist minister-designate to attend in their place.
“A situation in which the meetings of the North-South Council of Ministers cannot take place due to the circumstances mentioned above is, in my opinion, clearly the result of unlawful conduct.”
The judge continued: “Ministers of the Northern Irish Executive must confirm the promise of office which is set out as part of the Northern Irish Executive Ministers’ Code.
“This includes the obligation to participate in the North-South Council of Ministers and the British Irish Council.
“The court can hardly come to any other conclusion than that the defendants have consciously decided to violate the official promise and the ministerial order.”
Mr Justice Scoffield pointed out that the decision not to attend the North-South meetings was led by the DUP leader.
He added: “It is perhaps worth noting that each minister in the Northern Irish Executive has personal responsibility to uphold the promise of office and the code of ministers.
“The court expects the defendants to comply with their legal obligations.”
Mr Justice Scoffield said he would not take any further action at the moment, but said the applicant could return to court if the situation does not change.
“The court obviously has other powers. But from my point of view it would be a sad spectacle if these powers had to be exercised. “