Belfast Telegraph

DUP leader ‘living in denial’ if she attends Brexit talks

By Noel McAdam

Sinn Fein has accused DUP leader Arlene Foster of continuing to act like the First Minister amid reports she plans to attend the next Joint Ministerial group meeting on Brexit.

The party's John O'Dowd, a former Education Minister, said Mrs Foster was still "in denial".

He added that the DUP leader could not represent Northern Ireland on Brexit because a majority here voted to remain in the European Union.

Mr O'Dowd said: "Arlene Foster is no longer the First Minister.

"She is in denial about her responsibility for the disasters around RHI, is in denial about her position as former First Minister, and living in denial about the damage that Brexit will do to our economy.

"Arlene Foster prefers to stand with the Tory party that has cut the health service and imposes Brexit on our economy, than stand with the majority of people who rejected the Tory party and their Brexit policy."

In a statement, the DUP responded: "We understand that Sinn Fein don't take up their seats in Parliament, but they should be aware of the provisions of Section 16B of the Northern Ireland Act (on the continuing functions of First Minister in the interim).

"If John O'Dowd were a minister then he could consult the Attorney General in relation to the legal position - an option open to his colleagues.

"As Sinn Fein continue to threaten the people of Northern Ireland with direct rule, it's hard to take seriously any criticism of the Conservative Party which, on the basis of Sinn Fein's present position, will be taking all decisions in relation to Northern Ireland very soon."

Meanwhile, SDLP MPs Mark Durkan, Margaret Ritchie and Alasdair McDonnell are to join their Scottish Nationalist counterparts in attempting to prevent the Government's Brexit Bill reaching its second stage.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood agrees with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, who has been demanding the Government set out its Brexit strategy in greater detail. Normally, a White Paper precedes legislation. The move comes after the Supreme Court ruled the Government did not need to consult the devolved assemblies on Brexit.

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