Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster said on Friday, June 16, that it was “right and proper” for her party’s MPs to support the Conservative government’s Queen’s speech next week.
Northern Ireland’s DUP are negotiating a confidence and supply agreement with Theresa May after the Conservative party failed to win a majority of seats in the UK parliament following snap elections on June 9. Foster told the BBC she hopes an arrangement will be agreed as soon as possible.
. @NigelDoddsDUP says setting the date for Queen's Speech is separate & not relevant to DUP's continuing discussions with Conservatives
— Mark Devenport (@markdevenport) June 15, 2017
The Guardian reported that DUP sources said the party wanted a “more compassionate approach to austerity” in any deal, and that DUP representatives have sought meetings with UK opposition parties, including the Liberal Democrats, about possible amendments to the Queen’s Speech.
Foster told the BBC the DUP wants the deal to include a reference to devolution of Corporation Tax.
. @NigelDoddsDUP says he won't commit to any deadline & talks will continue until DUP & Conservatives get right deal
— Mark Devenport (@markdevenport) June 15, 2017
Talks on devolution in Northern Ireland
May and Secretary of State James Brokenshire met representatives from Northern Ireland’s five main parties in Downing Street on Thursday, ostensibly to reassure them that any deal between the Tories and the DUP would not affect ongoing negotiations to form a devolved government in Northern Ireland. The parties have not been able to come to terms to form a power-sharing government after the March 2 snap Assembly elections.
Before the general election, Brokenshire was already under fire from nationalists for a perceived lack of impartiality, leading to Northern Ireland’s most senior civil servant, Sir Malcolm McKibbin, taking over the chair.
In a move perhaps designed to alleviate these concerns, David Sterling was confirmed as interim head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service to allow McKibbin to take an “enhanced” role in chairing cross-party discussions. McKibbin is due to retire on June 30, the day after the deadline to restore devolution. If the parties cannot agree a mandatory coalition government, Brokenshire must call fresh elections.
Naomi Long of NI Alliance party has come out of No 10 after PM talks saying she's "not reassured" by UK Govt neutrality post DUP-Tory deal.
— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) June 15, 2017
Speaking after the meetings on Thursday, Naomi Long, leader of the cross-community Alliance party, said the issue of the government impartiality during the negotiations to form a Northern Ireland Executive was discussed.
“The Prime Minister sought to reassure us of the neutrality of her government … the government is now reliant on the DUP for its continued existence and so it hard to see how this would not impact upon their approach to the current talks and, indeed, future challenges. But I will judge the government fairly on its actions,” Long said.
The Alliance party draws support from both the unionist and nationalist communities.
Robin Swann, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, warned May that side deals could harm the prospects of the Executive being restored and asked that the final DUP-Conservative deal be made public.
“She assured us that any agreement with the DUP would be published. Too often in the past we have seen the detrimental impact of ‘side deals’ on politics in Northern Ireland,” Swann said.
Swann also said calls from other parties that Brokenshire be replaced in talks by an independent chair were “a sideshow.”
“Given the extremely tight timeframe for talks, the time for people prevaricating over the ability of the Secretary of State to chair these talks is over,” Swann said.
Told Theresa May that it will take much more to convince us that the DUP tail isn't wagging the Tory dog. pic.twitter.com/m72uTpGFE4
— Colum Eastwood (@columeastwood) June 15, 2017
Colum Eastwood, leader of the moderate Irish nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, expressed concerns about DUP influence over the Conservatives.
“The Prime Minister will have to do a lot more, however, to convince us that the DUP tail isn’t wagging the Tory dog,” he said.
Gerry Adams says James Brokenshire chairing the talks is 'a non issue'. He has not and will not chair any sessions of the talks.
— Ken Reid (@KenReid_utv) June 16, 2017
Gerry Adams, president of the more hardline Irish republican Sinn Féin party said he warned May that “the pact between the Tories and the DUP has the potential to undermine past agreements and the re-establishment of the Executive.”
“Both the government and the DUP have refused to implement key agreements on language and equality rights and dealing with the legacy of the past,” Adams said.