Stormont is “inevitable” to collapse if the issues around the Northern Ireland protocol are not resolved, Northern Prime Minister Paul Givan said.
Mr Givan said that while he is committed to decentralization and wants the Assembly to work, the current situation is not “a tenable position”.
DUP chief Jeffrey Donaldson has repeatedly threatened to bring down Stormont unless the so-called Irish Sea border is removed.
Mr Givan said he understood that some people opposed these tactics, but insisted that they are aimed at building lasting institutions in Northern Ireland.
“I want institutions to be able to continue to function, to focus on the issues that matter to everyone.
“But I also accept that for an institution to function effectively, its foundations have to be right, and at the moment they are not,” he told BBC Talkback.
“This creates real challenges for the sustainability of what we are trying to do at Stormont, as it requires the collective buy-in of all members of the community. And at the moment, he doesn’t.
“People can argue that the protocol is the result of Brexit and that Brexit was bogus.
“The reality we have to face is, how do we make it work now?
“How do you get unionists and nationalists to be bought off from Stormont and deliver for people?”
“It has been a success in the past where everyone felt they could be a part of this process.
“For the moment, large sections of unionism do not feel it and it is not a tenable position.
“I want it to work, but it has to be on a solid foundation. “
Mr Givan insisted that the DUP’s goal is to achieve an outcome that “works for everyone”.
“Jeffrey will say regularly, he wants decentralization to work,” he said.
“We are trying to progress. We’re trying to – our goal is to get something that works for everyone.
“Our tactics that we use to achieve this, I understand that some people will disagree with.
“But we are focused on getting an end goal where trade unionists and nationalists can join Stormont and those institutions that serve the people.”
The Northern Ireland Protocol prevented a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit, but introduced new trade barriers in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
While the EU has made concessions on how it will operate, especially to ease the flow of medicines from Britain to the UK, these have not satisfied many who oppose them.
Mr Givan said the arrangement is not sustainable because it lacks the support of the Unionist community.
He said: “I have always been committed to devolution because I believe that we are better able to identify the problems and the needs of our communities.
“I can do it with all the political representatives of the other parties, work collectively within the executive to do it, and on a lot of issues we get common ground.
“Then we can go out together with a common goal, trying to solve these problems together.
“I think Stormont is the best place to do it. I think London is too far away and therefore we do better to make our politics work.
“But the protocol upset that balance, in terms of constitutional change without obtaining public consent to do so.
“Therefore, we have to tackle this. “
Mr Givan said he was aware of the difficulty of restoring institutions after they collapsed.
The last time power-sharing collapsed, in 2017, it was not restored for three years, in 2020.
“I know that in institutions that are collapsing it is much more difficult to put them back in place. We have been there before.
“These are conversations that we’ve had, that whenever the going gets tough it’s really hard to get up.
“But they are also not sustainable in their current form. I think it is inevitable that these institutions cannot work if we do not resolve the problems of the Protocol.
“Because he does not have the support of the Unionist community to do it.
“So, when action needs to be taken, that will be something the party will continue to consider.” – PA