Full transparency ‘essential’ in DUP deal with Conservatives
Stick to Belfast Agreement as London, Stormont talks continue - Flanagan
Talks between the DUP and the British prime minister today are expected to yield a confidence-and-supply deal under which Arlene Foster’s party would support Ms May to form a government. But there has been concern in Dublin and among nationalists in Northern Ireland about concessions that might be secured by the DUP, which is also negotiating to restore the power-sharing institutions at Stormont.
“There must be full and detailed transparency on all aspects of a confidence-and-supply deal,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said last night. “That’s essential.”
He said the Government’s position remained that there must be no departure from the letter of the Belfast Agreement and he would be “closely monitoring” any agreement between the Conservatives and the DUP to ensure that the “rigorous impartiality” required of the two governments was maintained.
The Government is alert to concerns that the DUP could leverage its pivotal position at Westminster to strengthen its hand in the Stormont talks.
Mrs Foster hailed the prospect of an agreement with the Conservatives as a tremendous opportunity for her party and for Northern Ireland.
One senior DUP source said the focus of the Downing Street talks today would be on “brass tacks” matters, implying that they would deal with issues such as job promotion, health, education and infrastructure.
The DUP’s negotiations with the Conservatives could delay the queen’s speech, the British monarch’s formal outlining of her government’s legislative agenda, which is due to be held next Monday.
Ms Foster meanwhile described talks between the DUP and Sinn Féin at Stormont as constructive and workmanlike.
The Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, and the SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, said that the reappointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, should not chair the talks because the prospective Conservative-DUP link-up meant he could not be impartial, which would go against the terms of the Belfast Agreement.
Nonetheless relations between the DUP and Sinn Féin appear to have improved. Although Mr Adams repeated that Ms Foster should stand aside as first minister in any new Northern Ireland Executive, pending the outcome of the inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive – or cash-for-ash – scheme, he also appeared to hint that there could be room for manoeuvre on the matter in the current talks.
Mr Brokenshire has given the parties until June 29th to reach a deal, saying this deadline is “final and immovable”. Mr Flanagan expressed optimism that agreement could be reached by this date and described talks as positive and constructive.