Friday, 28 July, 2017

British PM May to meet Sinn Fein, other Northern Ireland parties

LGBT activists call for thousands to join same-sex marriage march LGBT activists call for thousands to join same-sex marriage march
Andrew Cummings | 16 June, 2017, 06:34

Former British prime ministers John Major (L) and Tony Blair share a platform for the Remain campaign event at the University of Ulster in Londonderry, Northern Ireland June 9, 2016.

May announced last Friday following her humiliating defeat in the general election that she would be allying with the pro-Brexit DUP party to gain a 13-seat Conservative majority.

The date for the new legislative programme to be unveiled came hours before Mrs May is due to host Sinn Fein, the DUP and other parties at No10 in a bid to restore the Stormont assembly after its acrimonious collapse in January.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire and DUP leader Arlene Foster are both in London for talks on the confidence and supply deal that would enable Theresa May's minority government to function.

Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance have all made clear Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire can not chair the ongoing process to restore powersharing at Stormont due to their perception he has a conflict of interest.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has told Sinn Fein leaders if they are concerned about her party's enhanced influence at Westminster they should move to restore devolution at Stormont.

However some analysts say a deal between May and the DUP that hands the province additional resources but does not damage Irish nationalist interests or undermine peace could motivate Sinn Fein to agree to form a new power-sharing government.

In a statement afterwards, Mrs May said that "good progress" had been made and an agreement was possible if there was "good will on all sides".

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May's pursuit of the DUP has raised concerns in the Conservative Party.

But even as outgoing Taoiseach Kenny directly warned Prime Minister May of her obligation to treat all of Northern Ireland's parties even-handedly, his successor, Leo Varadkar, held out the hope that the DUP's hold over Mrs May's majority might now mean "a soft Brexit" compared to her earlier stance.

"The deal between the DUP obviously and propping up the British government has taken longer than expected - so that has left us absent".

"The danger is, however much any government tried, they will not be seen to be impartial if they are locked into a parliamentary deal in Westminster with one of the Northern Ireland parties".

An agreement between the Tories and DUP is thought to be close, with Mrs May saying the talks had been "productive" and emphasising the need for "stability" in government.

Talks prior to the election being called had failed to reach an agreement.

A Downing Street source said the talks had been "constructive" but refused to put a timescale on when they would conclude.

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