Talks in doubt as Tory/DUP alliance threatens peace deal
Talks in doubt as Tory/DUP alliance threatens peace deal


Stormont negotiations scheduled to recommence on Monday are unlikely to go ahead as the Democratic Unionists have turned their focus to London following the Westminster general election.

The fate of the talks to restore to the devolved power-sharing executive at Stormont, which collapsed amid accusations of DUP corruption and bigotry, is now unclear.

Naomi Long leader of the cross-community Alliance Party, said the talks process was in “real danger”.

The East Belfast Assembly member pointed to the British Prime Minister’s remarks about her “friends and allies” in the DUP, who the Tory leader said she had “enjoyed a strong relationship [with] over many years”.

She said the planned alliance between the DUP and the Tories had made the possibility of successful talks more remote.

“There is now no credibility for the Tory government to be an independent chair, putting the entire process in real danger of collapsing.”

Last week, DUP leader Arlene Foster had suggested she wants devolution back up and running as quickly as possible.

“(Sinn Fein) pulled it down and now they have come back with a series of red lines, so the question about devolution is really one for Sinn Fein, because we want devolution back and running,” she said.

“We believe it is the best form of government for Northern Ireland and we believe in terms of Brexit that we need a distinct Northern Ireland voice and that can only be gained if we have devolution up and running again.”

However, the DUP’s new-found influence in London was seen to have increased their taste for direct British rule, and there has been no confirmation that talks will go ahead.

Sinn Fein party’s leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill had already accused DUP of giving up on power-sharing in favour of Tory rule.

Mrs O’Neill said: “The re-establishment of the Executive is a matter of agreeing the implementation of previous agreements. It could and should happen without delay.

“It now appears that DUP support for the Executive has a whole new series of conditions.

“Their Westminster manifesto sets out five tests for the negotiations and ten commitments. All, from a party that says, it has no red lines for agreement.

“These tests and commitments make reaching agreement more difficult and read like a manifesto for a return to British direct rule.

“It appears that the DUP has given up on power sharing with nationalists and republicans in favour of Tory rule.

“They are either living in denial about the step change that is required or have made the judgement that they would rather have Tory direct rule ministers than equal partnership government based on the principles of the Good Friday Agreement.”

There are also concerns that the renewed alliance between the DUP and loyalist paramilitary groups will guarantee a hardline stance.

The Tory government has already indicated support for an amnesty for former British soldiers accused of war crimes and the abolition of some human rights.

Some loyalists have now claimed to have been promised an end to historic investigations and a blanket amnesty for their death squads.

* Pictured: DUP and Tory negotiators and chief whips, Jeffrey Donaldson and Gavin Williamson

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