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Corbyn a risk to Union, warns DUP's Foster in fierce attack

Arlene Foster turns on Corbyn for supporting united Ireland as Dodds confirms DUP will work closely with PM May

By Noel McAdam

Published 05/10/2016

First Minister Arlene Foster speaks at the DUP event at the Conservative conference in Birmingham
First Minister Arlene Foster speaks at the DUP event at the Conservative conference in Birmingham
Theresa Villiers MP (centre) applauded on the third day of the Conservative Party Conference
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire (also below), Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell and Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns
Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn

Arlene Foster has launched a blistering broadside against the Labour Party leadership, branding it a "threat to the Union".

The First Minister said she agreed with an assessment by her party's deputy leader Nigel Dodds, who voiced serious concerns about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

In the past, Mr Corbyn expressed support for a united Ireland, while Mr McDonnell apologised last year for any offence caused by his earlier call for Irish republican terrorists to be honoured.

In 2004, Mr McDonnell was given a special award by Sinn Fein and an IRA-supporting group in recognition of the "unfailing political and personal support he has given to the republican community in the Six Counties over many years".

Addressing a breakfast time Ulster Fry event at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham yesterday, Mr Dodds referred to IRA and other bombings in the past and said it was more important than ever for unionists across the United Kingdom to stand together.

"When we think - and you don't need me to remind you - of the sort of Opposition that is on offer in the United Kingdom and in the House of Commons, men like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell who have supported in the past people who carry out such bombings, it is more important than ever that we who are unionists, together, whether from Scotland, Wales, England or Northern Ireland, stand together against all the threats to the Union," Mr Dodds said.

"I include the current leader of the Opposition and the Shadow Chancellor in that threat to the Union."

Asked if she shared Mr Dodds' opinion, Mrs Foster said: "Absolutely, because of what they have been associated with in the past and, indeed, it appears in the present as well, given some of the Press coverage over the weekend in connection with John McDonnell with some of those who have been convicted of dissident republican activity. That is very concerning from our perspective, that somebody who would hold such a high office in the Labour Party would be associated with those sorts of people."

Mrs Foster and other DUP representatives also held a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May, as speculation continued over the level of support the DUP would give the Tories at Westminster.

Mr Dodds said: "We will lend our full support to the new Prime Minister, who I think has got off to a fantastic start in leading this country forward. We will lend her our full support in terms of making Brexit work for all of the United Kingdom."

The North Belfast MP added the DUP would work with the Government "on other areas of policy on which we agree, like grammar schools".

Mrs Foster said later: "Obviously, in terms of the big-ticket issue, in terms of Brexit, we are on the same page - we want to make a success out of leaving the European Union."

Beyond that, she added, there were "some synergies" between the two parties.

But Sinn Fein Mid-Ulster MP Francie Molloy, who also attended the breakfast event, said Northern Ireland's majority vote in favour of remaining within the EU needed "to be respected".

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