Peace warnings as May plays the Orange card
Peace warnings as May plays the Orange card


An attempt by British Prime Minister Theresa May to placate the North of Ireland parties over her plans to form a pact with hardline unionists saw Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams tell her that her government is “in clear breach of the Good Friday Agreement”.

The Sinn Fein leader said his party would oppose any deal which undermines the power-sharing arrangement for the Six Counties.

He spoke out after holding face-to-face talks with Theresa May in Downing Street aimed at tackling the deepening crisis in the peace process.

The British PM met with representatives of all five main political parties from the North of Ireland amid continuing speculation over the DUP’s demands in return for propping up her government. She issued the invitations as an attempt to resume talks at the Stormont Assembly in Belfast was overshadowed by her negotiations in London.

The Tories lost their parliamentary majority last week after May’s disastrous decision to hold a snap general election, forcing them to play the ‘Orange Card’. The use of unionists to secure a Westminster majority has a long history of bringing turbulence to Ireland. Its reappearance, in tandem with the Brexit crisis, has raised fears that the political process in the north of Ireland could collapse.

While Sinn Fein appeared reluctant to raise the alarm, senior British political figures such as former PM John Major and former Downing Street Press Secretary Alastair Campbell issued stark warnings over the fate of the 1998 peace deal. In particular, they acknowledged that under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, the British government must remain neutral in its dealings between nationalism and unionism.

Flanked by Michelle O’Neill, leader of Sinn Fein in the North, Mr Adams said of the talks with May: “We told her very directly that she was in breach of the Good Friday Agreement and we itemised those matters in which she was in default in relation to that agreement.

“This is the first time I have been here without (former Deputy First Minister) Martin McGuinness and we also gave her Martin McGuinness’ resignation letter because that points out the difficulties (where) the institutions failed but also pinpoint the way that the institutions can be put back in place on a basis which shows respect for everyone, tolerance and integrity.”

He added: “We will oppose any deal which undermined the Good Friday Agreement.

“A little side bargain to keep Theresa May in power, a temporary little arrangement, won’t have any integrity and isn’t as important as the integrity and the needs of the people who live in Ireland.”

Mr Adams also ruled out any prospect of Sinn Fein’s seven MPs taking their seats in the Commons in an attempt to block the Conservatives.

He said: “We’re Irish republicans, we have just been elected on a certain mandate. That mandate is that we won’t interfere in British affairs, we won’t take an oath of allegiance to the English Queen - no harm to her.

“We’re united Irelanders, we want to govern ourselves. You folk here made enough mess of your own elections, make enough mess of your own governments, make enough mess of your own affairs. We want you out of our affairs and we’ll try to sort out these matters as Irish men and women on the island of Ireland.”

And speaking on Irish radio on Friday, Mr Adams warned the British PM was “detached” from what is going on in Ireland.

“She didn’t respond in any intelligible way. There is a detachment from what is happening here,” he said. “She is a woman who is struggling to stay in power and is prepared to do a deal with the DUP to say in power.”

May will attempt to form a government next week, but her declining political stature suffered another blow with a lacklustre response to a disastrous fire in London this week. Over 100 people are thought to have died on Wednesday at Grenfell Tower in an inferno blamed on the use of cheap construction materials in a public housing refurbishment project. Tory austerity measures have been blamed, and there have been a number of large protests over official attempts to play down the scale and significance of the tragedy.

Despite a mounting sense of crisis over her leadership, May is set to go ahead with a ‘Queen’s Speech’, a text setting out her plans to form a government on Wednesday. It is reportedly set to go ahead whether a deal has been concluded with the DUP or not. The leader of British Labour, Jeremy Corbyn, has also said he is continuing his own efforts to form a government.


Amid the talks in London, DUP leader Arlene Foster told Sinn Fein leaders that if they are concerned about her party’s increased influence at Westminster they should agree to restore local power-sharing in Belfast.

Sinn Fein collapsed the Assembly in January as allegations of DUP sectarianism and corruption finally became impossible to ignore.

“If others decide that they are not coming back into the devolved administration here in Northern Ireland then those issues will have to be dealt with at Westminster,” Foster said. “It is really for Sinn Fein to decide where they want those powers to lie.”

Foster also met with new 26 County Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin on Friday. Asked if she expected to be First Minister in the Northern Executive again soon, she said: “It takes two to tango. We’re ready to dance.”

But Gerry Adams accused the DUP of failing to turn up for three days of talks to restore Stormont this past week. He said, at a meeting on Monday, the parties agreed they would meet from Wednesday onwards, but the DUP failed to show.

Mr Adams said: “We met with DUP and agreed with them that we would clear our desks - Wednesday, Thursday, Friday - and meet with the other parties also. The DUP didn’t turn up. We need them in the room.”

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