Stormont on hold while DUP closes in on Westminster power
Stormont on hold while DUP closes in on Westminster power


Talks between the Democratic Unionist Party and the British Conservatives have continued in London on a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement for the DUP to prop up a minority Tory government at Westminster.

On Tuesday, DUP figures were telling journalists that the Conservatives “haven’t proceeded in a way that the DUP would have expected”. However, by the end of the week there was more confidence that a deal would be struck.

How much of any deal will be made public remains uncertain. It is understood that the Tories have been reluctant to enter into embarrassing public commitments on the DUP’s agenda in the North of Ireland. While Theresa May had vowed to reveal the terms of any deal, a confirmation of an agreement on issues related to the peace process would be in breach of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and would likely fuel a legal challenge.

Tory negotiator Damian Green said on Wednesday there was “every possibility” of a DUP deal on BBC Radio 4. “We have some differences, but we have a lot in common,” he said, and both were “unionist parties at our heart”.

“We’re both, obviously, very concerned with combating terrorism, we both have similar views about delivering a good Brexit for this country, and, obviously, we’re both very, very concerned with the Irish border issue. All talks of this kind take a long time, they are still continuing.”

Sinn Fein Foyle MP Elisha McCallion warned Mrs May was “prioritising a self-serving negotiation with the DUP” over the ongoing efforts to restore power-sharing in the north of Ireland.

But DUP negotiator Jeffrey Donaldson claimed the British government was not going to be biased towards his party.

“We’re not asking the Conservatives to take sides in the devolution debate in NI or be anything other than what they need to be, impartial,” he claimed.

Colum Eastwood, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, said the “chaotic talks” between the DUP and the Conservatives were holding politics in the north of Ireland to ransom.

He said a Stormont budget could not be agreed until parties know the details of the DUP’s Westminster deal.

“If people think that anyone is going to sign a deal here without knowing what’s coming from London, that doesn’t make any sense at all, because what we’re trying to do here is form a government - a government that will need a budget.”

Sinn Fein pointed out that, despite the fact the government has imposed a Stormont deadline of next Thursday, ministers have spent most of the last 10 days in a bilateral negotiation with the DUP aimed at propping up Theresa May’s administration.

Party officials argued Stormont is where the focus of the government and the DUP should be.

“The British government set Thursday 29th June as a statutory deadline to the talks,” said party negotiator Conor Murphy.

“Then they arrested any potential progress by calling an election in the self interest of the Tory Party.

“Since that initiative dramatically backfired they have engaged in negotiations for the past two weeks with the DUP. Media speculation suggests the conclusion to this will not be revealed until Thursday 29th June.

“Yesterday the two governments said that the actual deadline for the talks is Tuesday June 27th. The British government is content to go through the motions at Stormont but their main focus is elsewhere.

“Given the lack of progress in the Stormont Talks and the lack of knowledge about the impact of any Tory/DUP deal on our public services, on agreements and on the political institutions, Sinn Fein is concerned that time is running out.”

Meanwhile, the new 26 County Taoiseach said he is “very reassured” that any deal between the Conservatives and the DUP at Westminster will not undermine the Good Friday Agreement.

However, on his first major appointment as Taoiseach, Varadkar appeared out of his depth on Anglo-Irish relations.

Varadkar said he felt compelled to quote Mrs May’s predecessor, Winston Churchill, “a very great Prime Minister.. who said that our two countries should walk together in mutual comprehension and forgiveness.”

However, Churchill is notorious in Ireland for deploying the murderous “Black and Tans” -- irregular RIC police -- who killed thousands of innocent Irish people in a bid to suppress the struggle for independence.

And overwhelmed by his visit to Downing Street, the youthful new Fine Gael leader said it was a “thrill” to visit the building and said it reminded him of a famous scene from the movie ‘Love Actually’ featuring a dancing Hugh Grant.

He expressed his disappointment when he learned that the stairs down which Grant danced as the fictional Prime Minister in didn’t actually exist, as the film had not been shot at Downing Street, but on a set built in a film studio.

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