Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson dines with DUP on arrival in Northern Ireland ahead of power-sharing talks

Boris Johnson with DUP leader Arlene Foster at Parliament Buildings, Stormont
Boris Johnson with DUP leader Arlene Foster at Parliament Buildings, Stormont
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Boris Johnson had dinner with the DUP leadership on Tuesday evening after arriving in Northern Ireland for talks with political parties.

The Prime Minister attended a dinner with party leader Arlene Foster, deputy leader Nigel Dodds and MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson ahead of his official visit on Wednesday.

It is understood the meeting focused on the Conservatives' Westminster relationship with the party and the potential renewal of the confidence and supply deal that is keeping Mr Johnson's minority administration in power.

Following the meeting Mrs Foster said she was "delighted to welcome him to Northern Ireland so early in his premiership".

"We want to see devolution restored in Northern Ireland, Brexit delivered and the union strengthened," the DUP leader said.

Mr Johnson is set to call for the return of power-sharing during his first visit to Northern Ireland since becoming Prime Minister.

The visit is part of his tour of the UK since succeeding Theresa May last week. Mr Johnson visited Scotland on Monday, with a trip to Wales on Tuesday.

He will meet with Northern Ireland's five main political parties for discussions on restoring power-sharing on Wednesday.

Mr Johnson is also expected to discuss Brexit and the crisis at Harland and Wolff with calls to nationalise the shipyard, which is facing administration.

“The people of Northern Ireland have now been without an Executive and Assembly for two years and six months – put simply this is much, much too long," the Prime Minister said ahead of his official visit.

“Northern Ireland’s citizens need and deserve the Executive to get up and running again as soon as possible, so that locally-accountable politicians can take decisions on the issues that really matter to local people.

“I’m pleased to meet each of Northern Ireland’s party leaders to stress that I am going to do everything in my power to make the ongoing talks to restore devolution a success.”

Newly-installed Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith is representing the UK Government in the ongoing Stormont talks and will be alongside Mr Johnson for his visit.

“The Prime Minister’s visit during his first full week in office shows just how important Northern Ireland is to this government," Mr Smith said.

“It is of critical importance that new momentum is now introduced to the ongoing talks process, and that all of the parties work collectively to reach agreement. I’m pleased the Prime Minister has agreed to meet each party and help drive the process forward.

“I want to ensure Northern Ireland continues to thrive and intend to work alongside the PM to build a prosperous, secure Northern Ireland for everyone.”

Northern Ireland’s new Secretary of State Julian Smith (Rebecca Black/PA)
Northern Ireland’s new Secretary of State Julian Smith (Rebecca Black/PA)

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said that she was set to meet Mr Johnson alongside Michelle O'Neill.

"We will remind him of the need to respect the wishes of the majority in the North to remain within the EU," Mrs McDonald said.

“We will also remind him of his obligations under the Good Friday and subsequent agreements including the provision for a unity referendum.

“And we will tell him that if the British Government have factored into their calculations a hard border, then they must factor in a Unity Referendum as laid out in the Good Friday Agreement.”

Northern Ireland is set to share in £300m in extra funding for economic growth deals, Mr Johnson announced on Monday.

The £300m growth deals funding will be shared across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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