Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster: DUP will consider PM election call - and look forward to RHI report

The DUP leader said she will not be reading a new book on the RHI scandal.

DUP party leader Arlene Foster at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Belfast ahead of the DUP annual conference there this weekend (Brian Lawless/PA)
DUP party leader Arlene Foster at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Belfast ahead of the DUP annual conference there this weekend (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Eimear McGovern

Arlene Foster has said the DUP will spend the weekend considering whether to support the prime minister in his call for a general election.

It's after Boris Johnson said MPs can have more time to scrutinise his Brexit deal if they agree to an election on December 12.

The DUP leader said the party would "make up their mind on Monday", adding that they had supported Mr Johnson in the past but that this was not a straightforward plea.

"It's linked to the deal he wants to rush through parliament without proper scrutiny," she said, speaking to the BBC.

"This is a deal that has huge implications for Northern Ireland and we're not content with that and we need time to consider," she said.

She was speaking ahead of the DUP annual conference at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Belfast this weekend.

"We don't fear an election. We have delivered for Northern Ireland through our confidence and supply deal with the Conservative party, but we have to consider what's in the best interests.

The DUP leader added that Mr Johnson appeared at her party's annual conference in 2018 and said: "I feel he didn't do what is best for the people of Northern Ireland. He made very clear commitments and he hasn't stood by those commitments."

When asked whether she felt betrayed by Mr Johnson, she said: "It's not a question of me feeling betrayed. Brexit and the maintenance of the union are not mutually exclusive, they can be dealt with together."

Ms Foster was asked whether she had already surrendered her red line in negotiations earlier in October, when it's thought there were signs there was a thaw in negotiations between Belfast and Dublin.

"We did move in terms of regulatory alignment because we wanted to get a sensible deal. We felt that in order to get a deal, we should move forward, but we had a mechanism in the Belfast Agreement where unionism would have to give consent to that," she said.

Ms Foster expressed confidence she will be able to weather any criticism that may come her way in a public inquiry report on Stormont’s botched green energy scheme.

There is no confirmed date for the publication of the findings of the public inquiry, which was chaired by retired judge Sir Patrick Coghlin, but it is widely anticipated before the end of the year.

"I don't live in dread of that report, I look forward to it. It will be good to get closure because it's been hanging around now since the inquiry was set up," said Ms Foster, who has seen the Renewable Heat Incentive inquiry’s findings in respect of her role in the controversy.

She said she will not be reading a new book on the scandal by journalist Sam McBride.

"There may well be somebody reading it for me but I'm not going to be reading it. I would much rather read the inquiry when it comes out," she said.

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