Sean Napier.

Boycott Challenge Back to Court

A challenge taken by a Belfast businessman against DUP Ministers’ boycott of North-South Ministerial Council meetings is to return to court this week.
The DUP are boycotting north-south meetings as part of their campaign against the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The High Court has already ruled that the DUP’s boycott is “unlawful." 

When DUP ministers were a no-show at two further north-south ministerial meetings on Friday of last week the matter was referred back to court.

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Speaking after Friday’s High Court hearing in Belfast, Paul Farrell from McIvor Farrell Solicitors, who is representing Sean Napier said: “Mr Napier has taken this case on a very careful basis and it is a step by step approach that he is taking. 

"We wanted the DUP Ministers and the DUP leadership to realise that what they were doing was unlawful and against the principles of good governance in Northern Ireland. The court went with us on that. 

"The next stage in the process will be for us to seek a specific order from the court if that is necessary but the ball is very clearly in the court of the DUP insofar as that is concerned."
He added: “Mr Napier is determined to see this matter through so we await with interest to see what the response from the DUP leadership and ministers are by Wednesday of next week.”

Commenting on the argument from the DUP that last week’s meetings were in fact not scheduled as the agenda had not been approved by the First Minister, Mr. Farrell described this stance as “a bit of a contortion."
“It doesn’t have any rationale and I don’t understand that a meeting which takes place today with accompanying ministers is not a meeting and I think that whatever we receive next week by way of a response from the DUP Ministers will have to explain that to my mind because I can’t understand when a meeting is not a meeting as the First Minister is indicating that they are.”
He added: “The case goes to the heart of good governance in Northern Ireland and it goes to the heart of the DUP and their engagement with the institutions of government. It is up to them now to explain to a legal standard what they propose to do next."

If the court compels the ministers to attend the meetings this week and they insist on continuing their boycott, then the ministers could be found in contempt of court.
Earlier last week, Mr. Justice Scoffield ruled that the DUP boycott of North- South meetings was unlawful but said he didn't want to have to take action against ministers which would result in "a sorry spectacle."

Mr. Napier said he has taken the case in defence of the peace process.

“As a young trainee journalist, I was at the signing of the Good Friday Agreement," he said. 

"But I am also at an age where I remember how bad things can be here. When you start to unpick the Agreement, it starts to eat into its very soul. All the parts of the Good Friday Agreement must work together and function. Now that I have grown older and have my own children, I don't want to see the Good Friday Agreement sabotaged because it is there to protect the peace process.”