Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has been accused of “running away” from people living in a border town during his visit to Northern Ireland.
The Tory minister arrived in Northern Ireland today for a one-day visit to the region.
During his first stop to Warrenpoint Port, Raab was criticised for not meeting with public representatives and local people.
The port, on Carlingford Lough which forms part of the Irish border, ranks second in Northern Ireland behind Belfast in terms of tonnes handled in 2017.
In a private engagement closed to media, Raab met workers in the port.
South Down MP Chris Hazzard said he was not given the opportunity to engage with Mr Raab.
The Sinn Fein man accused him of “coming in like a thief in the night”.
“I think this is the perfect illustration of the cynicism and the disrespect that the Tory government is showing towards the electorate here in South Down and Ireland in general when it comes to Brexit,” he said.
“We have some serious concerns around Brexit, the local community here are very anxious, the local business community are very anxious about what the next number of months and years is going to hold for them.
“The fact we have yet again another Tory minister not providing an opportunity to meet and engage and listen to those concerns is absolutely unacceptable.
“Dominic Raab is like a thief in the night coming in and out, not providing opportunity, not just me personally but the people I represent, and the media should have the opportunity to be able to ask the hard questions.
“The fact the Tories run away from this every time is telling in itself.”
Raab is also believed to have met with senior officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland at Newry Station just a few miles from the Irish border.
SDLP South Down MLA Sinead Bradley criticised Raab’s lack of engagement with local elected representatives as “disgraceful”.
She said she received only a few hours’ notice that Raab would be visiting Warrenpoint in her constituency.
Bradley said: “Brexit will affect rural communities and especially border communities the most.
“For the Brexit secretary to visit and essentially adopt the attitude of ‘we will talk about you but not to you’ really just amplified the attitude that has been used by this executive and the Tory government.
“It’s absolutely disgraceful and must be called out.”
Later, Raab will visit Stormont to meet with local political parties.