After yesterday's High Court ruling that the DUP's boycott of North-South ministerial meetings is “unlawful”, attention has turned to what Mr Justice Scoffield said would be a "sorry spectacle" if he the DUP ministers ignored his ruling.
And Seán Napier, the South Belfast businessman who took the landmark case, has indicated he will move swiftly to seek action against the DUP Executive team if they continue their boycott of cross-border business. Possible legal sanctions against the Ministers — MLAs Paul Givan, Edwin Poots, Michelle McIlveen, Gordon Lyons and Gary Middleton — could include fines or even detention.
"It is difficult for the court to reach any other conclusion than that the respondents have consciously determined to act in contravention of the pledge of office and the ministerial code,"said Mr Justice Scoffield. "It is perhaps worth emphasising that each minister of the Northern Ireland Executive bears personal responsibility to comply with the pledge of office and the ministerial code. The court obviously possesses further powers, but in my view, it would be a sorry spectacle for those powers to have to be invoked."
Seán Napier told belfastmedia.com that he took the legal action because he wants to secure a peaceful future for his children. “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.”
The medical supplies businessman added that the North-South bodies were designed to make things work on this island. "We have Brexit thrust upon us which is destabilising so now more than ever we need to see that North-South cooperation,” he added.
“I feel relieved that the judge had understood the case I put forward. I think Mr Justice Scoffield made quite a strong statement. Indeed, he couldn’t have been more pointed in his decision and I believe that he was speaking for the vast majority of people.”
The DUP’s boycott of the North-South bodies is part of their protest to the Brexit protocol but Seán believes the unionist hardliners are ignoring the benefits of the island of Ireland continuing to enjoy membership of the Single Market and Customs Union.
“As a businessman I am presently working with a number of companies who want to come to Ireland and use the North as their base. These are businesses which want to locate here because it is a very attractive place. The instability associated with the lack of North-South cooperation and this attack on the Good Friday Agreement is a danger to everything we have built up over the past two decades,” he said.