Belfast Telegraph

Claim Nigel Dodds in room when final talks papers passed 'utter lie,' says Arlene Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster has described a claim deputy leader Nigel Dodds was in the room when a draft agreement was passed between her and Sinn Fein leader Michelle O'Neill as an "utter lie".

It comes after BBC broadcaster Stephen Nolan said a DUP insider had told his show Mr Dodds was in the room at the time.   The source - a DUP politician - told the BBC final details had yet to be agreed but there was a broad agreement including Irish language provisions.

It was also claimed Arlene Foster did hand over the document to Michelle O'Neill and Nigel Dodds was in the room when it was handed over.

Mr Nolan stressed his show had no evidence of Mr Dodds being aware of the document being passed between the two leaders.

Later, speaking in Brussels after talks with Brexit chief Michel Barnier, Arlene Foster described the claims as “a complete and utter lie”.

In a statement, she added: "Following this morning’s media reports, I can clarify categorically that Nigel Dodds did not attend any meeting where any document was handed over to Sinn Fein.

"It is disappointing that there are some people who want to sow discord amongst unionists when there is none.

"The latest round of Talks failed because Sinn Fein wanted a one-sided deal. In a divided society any deal must be fair and balanced.

"There was never any agreement reached. Papers were exchanged but a paper on the Irish Language had no more standing than a paper on SF Ministers implementing the Military Covenant."

She added: "On the final Friday of the Talks, I released a statement saying there was more work to do. The selectively leaked papers show there were square brackets showing no agreement.  Commentators even concluded there was no agreement. Regardless of spin or document titles, the evidence points to there being no agreement.

"With little to no prospect of devolution being restored soon, I am focused on getting decisions made for everyone in Northern Ireland through Westminster. Arguing over the scraps of negotiations ignores the serious issues that need addressed."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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