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Arlene Foster: Deal with Tories an 'opportunity for Northern Ireland'

  • Foster: Tremendous opportunity not just for this party but for Northern Ireland
  • May 'I got us into this mess, and I'm the one who will get us out of it'
  • May tells Tory MPs DUP will not have any sway over policy on LGBT rights
  • Michelle O’Neill: Taoiseach must defend the Good Friday Agreement
  • Gerry Adams: I would hardly call that sort of arrangement stable
  • Leo Varadkar: Don't get too close to DUP
  • Queen's Speech delayed for week for re-write in light of Conservatives' DUP deal - reports

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said that a deal between her party and the Conservatives is an opportunity for Northern Ireland.

Speaking to the media alongside deputy leader Nigel Dodds at Stormont, Mrs Foster said: "Parliamentarians would like to play as full a role as they possibly can in our national parliament, just as some in Sinn Féin would like to play a role in the Irish parliament.

"I think this is a tremendous opportunity not just for this party but for Northern Ireland in terms of the nation, and we're looking forward to playing our part in that."

Mrs Foster said she will be going to London on Monday evening for talks with Theresa May. Mrs May, who has been meeting the 1922 Committee, is reported to have told them "I'm the person who got us into this mess, and I'm the one who will get us out of it".

Tory MPs banged tables for around 25 seconds and briefly cheered as the PM arrived at the crunch meeting inside the Palace of Westminster.

It came amid suggestions from some of Mrs May's own MPs that she would have to stand down after a disastrous General Election.

Mrs May also assured MPs that the DUP would not have any sway over policy on LGBT rights and any "confidence and supply" deal with them would not have any effect on talks aiming to restore the powersharing Northern Ireland government, the MP said.

'None of the Maybot'

One Tory MP who left the meeting midway through said there was no mood among colleagues for another leadership contest and that Mrs May spoke very well, adding "none of the Maybot".

The MP said one of the biggest cheers at the meeting came for the "greatly respected" Gavin Barwell, the PM's new chief of staff, who will have a "great deal of influence" alongside Chief Whip Gavin Williamson in the new government.

Mr Barwell has replaced Mrs May's key aides Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, whose resignations were reportedly demanded by Tory MPs as the price of their supporting the PM.

'Coalition for chaos'

Sinn Fein's leader in Northern Michelle O’Neill said the Irish government and the incoming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar must "defend the Good Friday Agreement".

Michelle O’Neill was speaking after meeting Irish minister Charlie Flanagan in Belfast.

Ms O’Neill said: "I met with Minister Flanagan in Belfast today. I told him that the Irish government and the new Taoiseach must resolutely defend the Good Friday Agreement in the context of the emerging Tory/DUP alliance.

"The Irish government should now insist on a joint commitment from both governments to the Good Friday Agreement and the international treaty which underpins it.

"This should be the immediate priority of the incoming Taoiseach.”

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said a DUP-Tory government is a 'coalition for chaos'. "I would hardly call that sort of arrangement ... stable," Mr Adams said.

"We don't believe that any deal with the DUP here and English Tories will be good for the people here. Any deal which undercuts in any way the process here or the Good Friday and the other agreements is one which has to be opposed by progressives."

'Don't get too close to DUP'

Earlier Mr Varadkar warned the British government not get too close to any particular party in Northern Ireland if it is to fulfil its commitments under the Good Friday Agreement.

"Our role as governments is to act as co-guarantors, not to be too close to any particular party in the North, whether it’s nationalist parties or unionist parties. That’s certainly something I will emphasis in any contacts that I have with Prime Minister May," he said.

However, Mr Varadkar said he also see potential from the ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement based on the DUP’s vision for a soft Brexit.

"They want to maintain the common travel area and want to maintain free trade between these islands and Britain and Europe. So I do think there’s an opportunity to soften Brexit. But that all remains to be seen," Mr Varadkar said.

Meanwhile the Queen's Speech has been delayed for at least a week because a new version has to be written to allow for the deal between the Conservatives and the DUP, it has been reported.

The speech, which heralds the opening of Parliament and sets out the agenda for the government was to made on Monday, June 19.

However, it has been delayed with reports it will take place at least a week later.

The uncertainty came as Mrs May was scheduled to have talks with the DUP on Tuesday. Arlene Foster's 10 MPs would give the Prime Minister a working majority in the House of Commons and allow her to get her programme for government through Parliament.

The PM's spokesman said it was not for him to confirm the date - which has been in the Queen's diary since April - and that new Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom would be providing an "update" shortly. Ms Leadsom's office made no immediate announcement in response to press queries.

But the BBC reported: "The BBC understands the Queen's Speech will be delayed by a few days. It had been due to take place next Monday."

Any delay would risk affecting the Queen's attendance at Royal Ascot next week.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, however, said the Queen's Speech "remains on track".

He told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: "As I'm here today, I'm very firmly of the standpoint the Queen's Speech remains on track.

"We are very firmly proceeding on the basis as we have been on the timeline for the Queen's Speech, on getting it finalised, on making it happen and getting on with the job of running the government."

A Labour spokesman said: "Number 10's failure to confirm the date of the Queen's Speech shows that this Government is in chaos as it struggles to agree a backroom deal with a party with abhorrent views on LGBT and women's rights."

High Stakes

BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said: "The government has yet to nail down this deal with the DUP and they will be very wary of presenting a Queen's Speech unless they are absolutely confident they can get it through - because if they can’t and they are defeated on the Queen’s speech, that is tantamount to a vote of no confidence.

"So obviously they have to nail down this deal with the DUP before they say "right we are going to go for the Queen’s Speech".

"So they are keeping their options open there. But the deal with the DUP is going to be difficult."

He continued: "Not just because we’ve already seen figures like Ruth Davidson expressing concerns about the attitude of the DUP on some social policy areas, but also because of the impact it could potentially have on Northern Ireland politics if the government is seen to be backing one side, ie the DUP, when of course they will have to reach a deal with Sinn Fein.

"The real concern is the deal at Westminster could jeopardise the future of power sharing in Northern Ireland.

"So this is really very, very high-stakes stuff."

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