Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said she welcomed the intervention of a delegation of US politicians who would visit Northern Ireland.
The group, led by US Congressman Richard Neal, met Taoiseach Micheal Martin in Dublin on Monday. On Tuesday he will address the Seanad and later travel to Northern Ireland. They are here to discuss post-Brexit trade deals and their effect on the Good Friday Agreement.
But they were criticized by the DUP, who said their view of the protocol was “one-sided”.
Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme, Ms McDonald said she welcomed their intervention.
“They wield tremendous influence and they meet all shades of opinion,” she said.
She said she supported their message that nothing should be done that would jeopardize the Good Friday Agreement – which she said was largely protected by the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“The Good Friday Agreement needs to be protected, that the protocol is here to stay, that there are established avenues to iron out concerns about implementation and that weeks after the election the people have had their say in the north and the executive must be formed and the politicians must get back to work,” she said. “There is no time to waste and no excuses.
On the threat of a US-UK trade deal if the protocol is not followed, she said: “The [US] the administration has made that clear for many years.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Congressman Bruce Morrison, co-chair of the US ad hoc committee tasked with protecting the Good Friday Agreement, said the “only acceptable solution” to the problems with the protocol was negotiations between the UK and the EU.
“Unilateral action will not solve the problem. It may create a political sense of accomplishment for some, but it will not bring the solution…to an acceptable place and that can only be done by agreement.”
Regarding the DUP’s comments on the US delegation, he said: “I don’t think they came intentionally to create a problem. I think they want to encourage everyone who has been elected to the Assembly to take their functions.
“I do not think so [they are] one-sided, but I’m not going to tell others how to consider it. Polarizing the situation is a mistake.”