Varadkar and Foster to meet amid nerves over Tory-DUP deal

Preparations in place for Friday meeting in Dublin with Stormont and Brexit on agenda

DUP leader Arlene Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster

 

The DUP leader Arlene Foster is expected to meet with the incoming taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin later this week, with officials making preparations for a Friday visit to Government Buildings.

The two leaders will discuss the progress of the talks to relaunch the North’s power-sharing institutions and the forthcoming Brexit negotiations between the British Government and the European Union, which are scheduled to start next Monday.

Senior officials last night confirmed that preparations are in place for a visit, though Ms Foster remains in London at the moment for talks with the British prime minister Theresa May about an agreement to support a new Conservative government at Westminster.

Ms Foster’s expected visit comes amid rising fears in Dublin about the influence the DUP will have on the British government’s approach to the North.

Officials and senior political sources confirm that there is growing apprehension about the DUP’s new-found power in relation to Stormont. They pointed to comments by the former British prime minister John Major yesterday, who warned about the dangers for the peace process of a deal with the DUP.

There was an immediate reaction in the North. The SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said: “It is a calm and rational comment from somebody who played a generally honourable role here.

“It is hard to disagree with what John Major has said. The Conservatives and the DUP are entitled to have discussions but people are entitled to be anxious.”

Speaking at Leinster House, the Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, made a stinging attack on the prospect of an agreement between the Conservatives and the DUP.

Asked if the agreement would result in Ms May’s administration no longer being “honest brokers”, Mr Adams questioned if they ever had been.

“I have never said the English Government are not honest brokers because of the deal they are doing with the DUP

“I have never said the English Government are not honest brokers because of the deal they are doing with the DUP. The English Government have never been honest brokers, ever. They have never been referees, have never been objective, have never been neutral.

“Now they are obliged to be so in the wording of the Good Friday Agreement and others. Unless the Irish Government is keeping them to that responsibility they will behave as they have behaved as long as I have lived.”

However, senior figures in Dublin also say that it could work to the advantage of Ireland, North and South, when it comes to Brexit if the DUP uses its power to soften the British government’s line in its dealings with the EU.

On Monday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said a “hard Brexit may not now be on the cards”.

“I think there are clear signs there that the initial hard Brexit may not now be on the cards. I think that would be good for us in Ireland.”