Sinn Fein has branded the DUP threat to pull down Stormont as a reckless and irresponsible election stunt.
Party president Mary Lou McDonald said the withdrawal of DUP ministers from north-south political bodies would also be a clear breach of the ministerial code at Stormont.
Reacting to the moves announced by DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson as part of his party’s campaign against Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol, Mrs McDonald said: “The position set out by Jeffrey Donaldson and the DUP today is a reckless, irresponsible and short-sighted election stunt.
“They are threatening the stability of the political institutions when we are in the midst of the Covid pandemic, when the Tories are putting families and workers under pressure with more cuts, and when there is big work to do on the issues that matter to people’s everyday lives – on hospital waiting lists, on schools, on housing and on jobs, and on rebuilding our economy.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also criticised the DUP stance, accusing the party of holding the people of Northern Ireland to ransom.
Mrs McDonald, whose party leads the powersharing administration in Belfast alongside the DUP, claimed Sir Jeffrey’s speech was motivated primarily by concerns about the party’s poor polling.
“The DUP is clearly in panic mode, driven by poor opinion polls they are focused on their own narrow self-interest ahead of the interests of workers, families and local businesses,” she said.
“Unionism has lost its political majority, the DUP is in disarray and their vote is in decline.”
Mary Lou McDonald the DUP did not speak for the majority of people in Northern Ireland.
“That majority believe that issues related to the protocol should be negotiated between the EU and the British Government but should not impact on the functioning of the Assembly, or the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement,” she added.
“Jeffrey Donaldson and his party championed a hard Brexit along with the Tories, regardless of its consequences for jobs, for workers and business.
“The protocol is a result of this which aims to mitigate the impact of Brexit on business and people of this island.
“The protocol was painstakingly negotiated by both the EU and British Government and protects the Good Friday Agreement; all-island economy; and avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland.
“It must be faithfully operated with least disruption, and in a legally operable way which complies with the EU/BG agreement.”
She said any challenges with the Northern Ireland Protocol should be resolved through the established structure of the EU/UK joint committee.
“The protocol does not change the constitutional position of and explicitly affirms the principle of consent as laid out in the Good Friday agreement,” she said.
In regard to the DUP move to withdraw from north south bodies set up under the Good Friday Agreement, the Sinn Fein leader said the unionist party could not “cherrypick” what elements of the 1998 deal it adhered to.
“The Ministerial Code requires ministers to take part in North-South meetings,” she said.
“To not do so is a clear breach of the Code.
“This is a time for calm and mature political leadership.”
Mr Eastwood said the DUP steps were based on “selfish party political self-interest”.
“People across Northern Ireland are sick of being held to ransom by political parties that put their own narrow self-interest above the interests of our communities and I do not believe that devolution could sustain another self-inflicted wound like this,” said the SDLP leader.
“Whether it’s the DUP or Sinn Fein, this behaviour has risked fatally damaging public confidence in politicians and the political process.
“The remarks made by the leader of the DUP this morning are disappointing, disproportionate and risk putting an end to devolution in Northern Ireland.
“I hoped that Jeffrey Donaldson’s leadership would be pragmatic, aimed at resolving the challenges that Brexit has created for all of our communities and acknowledging the need for compromise.
“Instead we have a return to the incendiary rhetoric and threats that got us nowhere for three of the last four years.”
He called on parties to work together to find solutions to issues around the protocol.
“Today’s change in tone and tact from the DUP follows another bad poll for the party,” said the Foyle MP.
“One party cannot be allowed to play Russian roulette with devolution for the sake of their own political position.
“The DUP leader must withdraw his threats, reflect on the consequences of bad faith with partners in government and work with everyone to find solutions to ensure devolution delivers for people.
“We are all sick of this lazy self-interested politics that puts the interests of political parties before the interests of people.”