Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster: I aim to bring stability to UK with talks

By Noel McAdam

DUP leader Arlene Foster has pledged her team of MPs will "stand up and speak out" for Northern Ireland after the party's record success in the general election.

Discussions to prop up Theresa May's minority government will get under way next week, with Mrs Foster set to travel to London.

She confirmed yesterday: "The Prime Minister has spoken with me this morning and we will enter discussions with the Conservatives to explore how it may be possible to bring stability to our nation at this time of great challenge.

"These are challenging times - the United Kingdom and our entire way of life is under threat from extremists. Negotiations on the withdrawal from the European Union are about to commence and we now face uncertainty at Westminster."

Mrs Foster emphasised that her party's agenda and what was best for Northern Ireland need not be in conflict with the best interests of the UK as a whole.

The impact, however, could be another delay in the resumption of inter-party talks aimed at restoring devolution - even though Secretary of State James Brokenshire's latest deadline is at the end of this month.

The five main parties may gather on Monday, as had been planned, and could decide to postpone the negotiations until an agreement between the Tories and DUP is completed.

DUP sources said no detailed deal had even been mentioned as yet. However, demands are thought likely to include a place for NI on the Brexit negotiating panel and the raising of the thorny issue of dealing with the legacy of the Troubles by providing greater protection from prosecution for former police officers and soldiers.

"No one expected we were going to be in this situation," one senior official admitted ahead of Mrs Foster's brief Press conference yesterday.

She and her team of 10 MPs refused to take questions at the rostrum, but afterwards the official admitted: "There are big questions for us but even bigger questions for others. For example, how is Mrs May now going to deal with her own party where there appears to be a lot of discontent? We are in unknown territory."

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