SF says any DUP-Tory deal must not undermine politics in North

DUP tells Conservatives that it ‘must not be taken for granted’

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly  speaking   at Stormont Castle  on Tuesday  about the  talks  to restore  the North’s Assembly. Photograph:   Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly speaking at Stormont Castle on Tuesday about the talks to restore the North’s Assembly. Photograph: Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

 

Any deal between the DUP and the Conservative party to prop up a British government led by Theresa May must not damage the political process in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin has said.

As talks continue at Stormont to restore devolution to Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin negotiator Gerry Kelly indicated agreement would not be reached until there was detail about the prospective DUP-Conservative deal.

DUP sources were adamant there was still a distance to go to close a deal with the Conservatives. They said the discussions have not been going as positively as was hoped.

One party source said the Tories needed to more seriously focus on the negotiations, and they should be aware that the DUP “cannot be taken for granted”.

While Queen Elizabeth will read the queen’s speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday, setting out the Conservatives’ plan for government, votes on the speech are not due until next week. There is an expectation that any Conservative-DUP deal would need to be concluded before votes take place.

Talks resume at Stormont on Wednesday, with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney again due to attend. Civil servants are currently putting together a new paper based on submissions from the parties on how disputed matters such as the Irish language, same-sex marriage and dealing with the past might be addressed.

Reassurances

Sinn Féin Assembly member Mr Kelly said on Tuesday that “obviously these discussions are also taking place against the backdrop of the DUP-Tory party negotiations and the Brexit talks, both of which have the potential to negatively impact on this process. So we are going to need more than reassurances that any deal between Arlene Foster and Theresa May won’t undermine this process.

“We need to see the detail because it is the Tories who undermined the Executive in the first place by pandering to the DUP’s actions in government and slashing over £1 billion from the [annual] block grant,” said Mr Kelly.

“And it is the Tories who may inflict yet more cuts on the North through their austerity policies, regardless of any deal with the DUP.”

Mr Kelly repeated that his party required DUP leader Arlene Foster to stand aside pending the outcome of the inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme – an inquiry that could take a year or more to complete.

Mr Kelly replied a terse “yes” when asked at Stormont if Sinn Féin is holding to its stand-aside demand.

The UUP leader Robin Swann said if this was Sinn Féin’s real position, rather than a negotiating one, he had to question whether it was genuine about seeking a deal to bring back the Northern Executive and Assembly.

Sticking point

“We are getting concerned now that no matter what happens around these talks that we are going to come back to that same sticking point, Sinn Féin’s insistence on who the first minister is going to be or not going to be.

“I am beginning to wonder are they genuine? Is Sinn Féin actually genuine in their engagements that are going on in these talks at all levels?”

Mr Swann said there was an urgency about restoring devolution so problems in areas such as health and education could be tackled.

“If Sinn Féin is serious about respect they have to look to the respect of those people who are now on trolleys and on waiting lists; they need to look to the dignity of those headmasters who are coming back in September to school budgets that they don’t know are in place.”