DUP strive for best deal for Northern Ireland in Tory talks

First published by IrishCentral Staff @IrishCentral June 09, 2017


DUP leader Arlene Foster

Arlene Foster, NI 1st Minister, has confirmed that her party will prop up a minority Tory government after an extraordinary British election that left the DUP in the key position of keeping the Tory Party in power.

The consequences for Brexit, for the peace process, for stability in the new British government are still to be worked out but The Irish Times reports that after a late flurry of contacts overnight the DUP have reached agreement.

Ironically one issue the DUP, the former party of Ian Paisley, will seek to explore is a more open border with the Irish Republic as well as a softer Brexit with extra funding for the North.

In the North itself Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are the big winners in the Northern Irish election, which sends 18 Members of Parliament (MPs) to Westminster, while the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) has been decimated as has the Ulster Unionist Party.

With ten seats the DUP is in a powerful position to prop up the Tory Party in power at Westminster because the Tories are short of the 327-seat majority at 219 seats.

The Conservatives started the campaign with a 20-point lead yet ended up barely holding on to a three-point margin. The Tory Party difficulty provides a huge opportunity for the DUP to play kingmakers. Little wonder that the BBC – as a matter of urgency – interviewed DUP spokesmen on the party’s position regarding propping up the Tories.

Meanwhile, the British Labour Party find themselves in the happy position of asking the question ‘Where did it all go right?’

In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein will end up with seven seats, their best performance in a British parliamentary election, continuing their rapid rise to become the largest nationalist party.

But the amazing news in Northern Ireland is the complete demise of the SDLP, once the largest nationalist party in Northern Ireland and closely identified with co-founder Nobel Peace Prize-winner John Hume.

Hume’s old seat in Derry was one of the three Westminster seats that the SDLP lost as former party leader Mark Durkan was defeated by Elisha McCallion of Sinn Fein. McCallion was a first-time candidate who paid an emotional tribute to the late Martin McGuinness in her victory speech.

Two other seats – in South Down and South Belfast – fell leaving the SDLP with no representation at Westminster.

Because Sinn Fein refuses to take their seats at Westminster there will be no Irish nationalist representation in the British parliament for the first time in modern history.

Suggestions that Sinn Fein would end their abstentionist policy and take their seats were quickly shot down by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. The party has always refused to take the oath of loyalty to the queen.

The other huge loser was the Ulster Unionist Party, for decades the most powerful party in Northern Ireland. They lost their only seat meaning that the two former powerhouses of Northern politics no longer have any representation in the British parliament.

The power-sharing government has been suspended in Northern Ireland for several months and the new political muddle makes the future even more unclear as does the potential for the DUP to heavily influence British government policy.