Wednesday 24 October 2018

Theresa May attacked for intervening in devolved government talks for N Ireland

The DUP’s Simon Hamilton suggested the visit had hindered progress.

By Lesley-Anne McKeown, Press Association

Prime Minister Theresa May has come under fire for her intervention in talks aimed at restoring devolved government in Northern Ireland.

Mrs May and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar travelled to Stormont on Monday hoping to push forward a breakthrough that would end the 13-month political impasse.

But the move has received significant criticism with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose 10 MPs are helping to prop up the Conservatives at Westminster, among the most scathing.

The DUP’s Simon Hamilton said: “I think the visit of the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach acted as a bit of a distraction at the beginning of the week.

“I don’t think it was entirely helpful in getting us to reach a successful conclusion.”

Mr Hamilton’s comments followed similar sentiment expressed by his party leader Arlene Foster on Tuesday.

Pressed further on whether the Prime Minister had ignored advice to stay away, Mr Hamilton suggested the visit had hindered progress.

“I am sure, as all prime ministers get advice from time to time they can take that advice or they can ignore that advice. Certainly, in our view it acted as a distraction.” he added.

“We were unable to build on progress we had been making at the end of last week and I think we have run out of road in respect of this process.”

There was also disquiet surrounding the arrival at Stormont of the Taoiseach on Monday.

The DUP declined to meet Mr Varadkar, claiming that the talks were focused on issues internal to Northern Ireland.

Naomi Long, from the cross-community Alliance Party, said both the British and Irish governments had not paid heed to warnings and were too optimistic.

She said: “At the time it seemed that the governments, for whatever reason, got it into their head more progress was being made than was possible.

“We warned them on Friday, we warned them clearly on Friday that we thought they were being far too optimistic and taking far too much for granted.

“On Monday we had the showcase of the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach arriving here (Stormont) and we hoped that was to try and inject sufficient momentum and confidence to get people over the line.

“We had no evidence for that other than the optimism in the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) and DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs).

“We hoped that was the case. As it turns out, they had been stringing them along too.”

Press Association

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