Belfast Telegraph

Court throws out challenge to DUP-Tory £1bn deal

By Rebecca Black and PA

The rejection of a Northern Ireland man's attempt to challenge the DUP's deal with the Conservatives has been welcomed by the party's deputy leader Nigel Dodds.

Ciaran McClean, a former Green Party election candidate, had applied to take a judicial review over the legality of the £1 billion deal.

He raised thousands of pounds through crowdfunding to finance the legal action.

But Lord Justice Sales, sitting with Mr Justice Lewis at the High Court in London, ruled against him.

Lord Justice Sales said neither of the two grounds relied on by Mr McClean in his application was "properly arguable in a court of law".

He added: "Permission to apply for judicial review should be refused."

Mr McClean, who pursued the action as a private individual and not in conjunction with the Green Party, claimed the deal breached the Bribery Act 2010.

During the hearing his lawyer tried to persuade the two judges that he had an "arguable" case, which should be given a full airing in court at a later date.

Dominic Chambers QC told them that under the June 26 agreement, the Government had "purchased" the political support of the DUP for £1bn.

He argued the agreement was made for an "unlawful purpose", and said that it was "on its face unlawful because it makes provision for the expenditure of public funds for party political advantage".

The application was contested by two defendants, the First Secretary of State and the Attorney General.

Their QC, James Eadie, submitted in written argument before the judges that the criminal law of bribery "plainly does not apply to a confidence and supply agreement between political parties".

He stated: "The allegation that the agreement entails public expenditure which is unlawful at common law and/or without parliamentary authority is misconceived in particular because the expenditure contemplated by the agreement will have appropriate parliamentary authorisation."

The deal saw the DUP's 10 MPs agree to support Prime Minister Theresa May's minority Tory government in a series of key Westminster votes.

In exchange, Northern Ireland's largest party secured £1bn of new Treasury investment in the region.

Under the 'confidence and supply' arrangement intended to last until 2022, the DUP guaranteed that its MPs would vote with the Government on the Queen's Speech, the Budget, and legislation relating to Brexit and national security.

A Government spokeswoman said: "We believe the claim is groundless and the court has agreed with that view.

"The Government is very clear that making funding available under the agreement is lawful and is for the benefit of all parts of the community in Northern Ireland."

Mr Dodds said: "This was a ludicrous case, which has been rightly rejected at the first stage."

Belfast Telegraph

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