Wednesday 25 April 2018

Kenny's 'concern' over DUP deal increases May's woes

Government sees 'pros and cons' in deal

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Enda Kenny has heaped pressure on embattled Theresa May in what is likely to be his last major act as Taoiseach.

He spoke to the British prime minister by phone yesterday and expressed his concerns about her bid to prop up the UK government with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

There are fears the central role being offered to the DUP could call into question the "rigorous impartiality" expected from Mrs May's administration under the Good Friday Agreement in the event of political disputes in the North.

DUP leader Arlene Foster is set to hold talks with Mrs May in Downing Street tomorrow to finalise a deal which will see the Conservative Party leader hang on as prime minister for now.

Downing Street initially said on Saturday that an arrangement had been reached but it later emerged that talks were ongoing. The intervention by Mr Kenny has added to Mrs May's woes at a time when she is desperately fighting for her political career.

Former British chancellor George Osborne has described Mrs May as "a dead woman walking", saying her bid to stay in Number 10 could collapse as early as next week.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to try to bring down the government by defeating Mrs May in parliament, insisting: "I can still be prime minister.

Read More: Corbyn to push forward plan for far-left government

"I think it's quite possible there will be an election later this year - or early next year. We cannot go on with a period of great instability," he said.

There was widespread criticism of Mrs May's move to enter a deal with the DUP, which is being portrayed in the British media as anti-LGBT rights, anti-abortion and as denying climate change.

Sources told the Irish Independent the Government here sees the DUP's position as a "delicate balancing act" that could prove difficult for stability in the North but positive for the Brexit negotiations.

"In theory, the DUP's position on Brexit is closer to our view in that it wants an open Border and strong trade.

Rethink

"Hopefully it can convince Theresa May to rethink her policy on leaving the customs union," a senior source said

Mrs May is already coming under pressure from within her own cabinet to tone down her rhetoric on the UK's divorce from the EU and to alter her approach in order to deliver a "pragmatic Brexit".

Such a move could lead to a softer Brexit, which would be welcomed by businesses on both sides of the Border.

Fresh talks between the DUP and Sinn Féin, aimed at resurrecting the Stormont Assembly, are due to get underway today. The power-sharing executive has not sat since the elections on March 2.

A spokesperson for Downing Street said Mrs May explained to the Taoiseach that she is working towards a confidence and supply deal with the DUP but remained committed to seeing the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive "as soon as possible".

Noting that the Irish Government wants a speedy resolution to the impasses, Mr Kenny expressed "concern that nothing should happen to put the Good Friday Agreement at risk and the challenge that this agreement will bring".

The Taoiseach, who will formally step down tomorrow, also noted the absence of any nationalist voice in Westminster as a result of Sinn Féin's decision not to take up its seven seats in the London parliament.

And he reiterated Irish concerns in relation to Brexit, suggesting that Mrs May should schedule an "early meeting" with his successor, Leo Varadkar.

Ahead of the talks in Belfast today, Sinn Féin has already accused the DUP of betraying the interests of Northern Ireland by agreeing to prop up a minority government.

The party's northern leader, Michelle O'Neill, predicted the deal with the Tories will "end in tears" for the DUP.

"But it will be the people of the North who will have to pay the price for the DUP's support for Brexit and for cuts," she said.

Ms O'Neill said the Tories have an "increasingly partisan approach" to Northern Ireland and called on the Irish Government to "stand up for the rights of all citizens in the North".

Irish Independent

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