Sinn Fein leader calls for Boris Johnson to hand UK vaccines to the EU

UK should ‘give some vaccine supply to Europe’ says O’Neill

The Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland said there should be no “vaccine nationalism” as she spoke in favour of lending vaccine supplies to Europe. Sinn Fein leader Ms O’Neill described handing over doses to the European Union as an act of “global solidarity.” Her remarks came just a day after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her colleagues sought to trigger Article 15 of the Northern Ireland protocol as a result of its row with AstraZeneca over shortfalls in COVID-19 jabs. 

Ms O’Neill told Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy that she “absolutely” supported the sharing of jabs with Europe despite the row that has seen the Northern Irish First Minister Arlene Foster described the actions of Brussels as “an incredible act of hostility.”

“We are in a global pandemic we are all in this together,” said Ms O’Neill.

“We are fighting this together and I think it is really really important that there is no vaccine nationalism.

“I think there will be times when obviously the supply of vaccines is more advanced and then there will be times whenever other countries are in a better state.”

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She continued: “I think what we need to be focused on now is global solidarity.

“I think what we need to be focused on is actually how we can work together and vaccinate all of our people in as timely a manner as we possibly can. 

“That is what people want.”

On Friday, Brussels had initially invoked Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol which is part of the post-Brexit deal.

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The decision was reversed within hours after widespread criticism – but the episode has shone a light on the increasingly antagonistic nature of relations between London and Brussels.

The move would have stopped the unhindered supply of coronavirus jabs from the bloc into the UK.

The EU’s intentions were to prevent Northern Ireland from being used as a door to move vaccines from mainland Europe to Britain.

Many countries in Europe have struggled to vaccinate their populations as rapidly as the UK has done in recent months.

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Ms O’Neill condemned the move and said on Twitter at the time: “I have just spoken with the Irish Govt to raise my very serious concerns in relation to the invoking of Art. 16.

“This is a totally ill-judged move by the EU and should not have been triggered. Calm heads need to prevail, this needs to be sorted urgently.”

Ms Foster added: “At the first opportunity the EU has placed a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland over the supply chain of the coronavirus vaccine.

“With the European Union using Article 16 in such an aggressive and most shameful way, it is now time for our Government to step up. I will be urging the Prime Minister to act and use robust measures including Article 16 to advance the interests of Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”

 

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