Friday 28 July 2017

May 'risks peace process by siding with DUP to secure key Brexit votes'

Brexit looming: Theresa May. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Brexit looming: Theresa May. Photo: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Siobhan Fenton

British Prime Minister Theresa May could risk the peace process in Northern Ireland over concerns she is pandering to the Democratic Unionist Party so they will back her Brexit plans, a leading politician in the North has warned.

Naomi Long, who is leader of the anti-sectarian Alliance Party, said there were growing concerns in Northern Ireland that Mrs May's impartiality on the peace process is being compromised by a need to keep the DUP onside.

The DUP has eight MPs at Westminster, which could prove essential support for the Conservatives, who currently have a slim majority in the House of Commons.

Amid growing concerns that some pro-EU MPs could rebel against Mrs May, securing support from the DUP is being seen as increasingly important in order to deliver her plans for the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

On Monday, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned, effectively ending power-sharing at Stormont.

He cited concerns over the DUP's "arrogance" in how it has handled allegations of a major financial scandal, known as the 'cash-for-ash' affair.

His DUP counterpart Arlene Foster is accused of mishandling a government project on renewable energy, which has cost the taxpayer more than £490m (€460m).

"There is a growing perception in Northern Ireland that the potential usefulness of DUP votes in Westminster to advance Brexit may be compromising the UK government's willingness to challenge the DUP and ability to act as honest broker and impartial guardians of the Good Friday Agreement," Ms Long said.

She warned failure to do so could result in "the permanent collapse of the political institutions".

Ms Long, who represents the East Belfast constituency, revealed she had written to Mrs May's government on two occasions last month, warning of Stormont's imminent collapse and urging action. She says the UK government failed to act, which fuelled turmoil in Northern Ireland.

"It has been clear that the current government, led by Theresa May, is completely tone deaf to the issues in Northern Ireland with neither the experience nor frankly the interest to recognise the political sensitivities," Ms Long said.

Under power-sharing rules, Mr McGuinness' resignation means Mrs Foster also loses her position as both must participate equally in government.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire now has a week to announce Northern Ireland will face new elections.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Office said: "This is complete nonsense. Since the issue emerged, the secretary of state has been closely engaged with leaders of all NI political parties in a bid to ease tensions and to find a way forward.

"Both the secretary of state and the prime minister have made clear this government is firmly and fully committed to the Belfast Agreement."

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Also in Business