Tánaiste plays down Dodds’ remarks on Brexit deal

Coveney reiterates DUP does not represent majority view in Northern Ireland

Tánaiste Simon Coveney (left) has said that the DUP has not represented Northern Ireland following the unionist party’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds’ (right) comments. Photographs: Yves Herman/Reuters and Niall Carson/PA Wire

Tánaiste Simon Coveney (left) has said that the DUP has not represented Northern Ireland following the unionist party’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds’ (right) comments. Photographs: Yves Herman/Reuters and Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney has played down the significance of remarks by DUP deputy leader, Nigel Dodds that he would rather remain in the European Union than support British prime minister Theresa May’s exit deal.

Mr Dodds told BBC Newsnight that he would “rather stay in the EU and remain rather than risk Northern Ireland’s position” in the United Kingdom after Mrs May saw her Brexit deal defeated in the House of Commons for a third time on Friday.

Mr Coveney said that he had heard Mr Dodds’s comments but he said he didn’t believe that the DUP were representing the voters of Northern Ireland on Brexit.

Mr Dodds said he did not rule out supporting a “soft Brexit” and that the withdrawal agreement in its current form risked leaving “Northern Ireland behind, causing economic and political ruptures between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom”.

However, Mr Dodds did maintain the DUP’s support for Brexit.

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“We believe the referendum result should be respected and delivered on,” he said and he reiterated his party’s position that it wants Brexit delivered without the Northern Ireland backstop.

Pivotal role

Asked if he took any comfort from Mr Dodds’ comments about preferring to remain in the EU rather than back Ms May’s deal, Mr Coveney said he did not take any encouragement from the remark as he did not believe the DUP represented the views of the majority in Northern Ireland.

“No, I think, unfortunately, the DUP have not represented Northern Ireland, they have represented a perspective of one community in Northern Ireland and not that community in its entirety either and that is regrettable,” he said

“We know that close to 70 per cent of people in Northern Ireland, and that includes many unionists, especially business and farming leaders, support the use of the backstop as an insurance mechanism to prevent the need for physical border infrastructure or checks that would undermine an all island economy.

Speaking in Cork, Mr Coveney said that he understood and respected the DUP position as he respected the positions of all other parties in Northern Ireland and they clearly had a pivotal role to play in Westminster but they were not reflecting the views of the majority of people in Northern Ireland.

“The DUP does not represent majority opinion in Northern Ireland - they hold ten seats in Westminster which is obviously an important group of votes for the government but the Irish government’s position is reflected by majority support in Northern Ireland which is not the case with the DUP’s position.”

Independent Unionist, Lady Sylvia Hermon made a similar point during a debate in the House of Commons on Friday but Mr Dodds responded by pointing out that the DUP represented more people in Northern Ireland “than anybody else”.

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