Belfast Telegraph

DUP defending Good Friday Agreement they 'sought to destroy' says former UUP leader Empey

Arlene Foster, Nigel Dodds and Jeffrey Donaldson outside No 10
Arlene Foster, Nigel Dodds and Jeffrey Donaldson outside No 10
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Former UUP leader Lord Empey has said the DUP are using the Good Friday Agreement as protection in Brexit talks even though they "did all they could to wreck" it.

The veteran peer recalled the DUP's opposition to the 1998 treaty and also highlighted that DUP leader Arlene Foster and Chief Whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson quit the UUP over the issue.

Speaking in Dublin on Wednesday Mrs Foster said that any Brexit deal must have the support of unionists and nationalists, pointing to the parity of esteem in the Good Friday Agreement.

"If you look at the Belfast Agreement, it’s about parallel consent, it’s about the consent of nationalism and the consent of unionism," Mrs Foster said.

“There are no unionist MLAs who support the backstop at present so therefore there is a need to find a way forward which everybody can buy in to.”

Lord Empey said we had come to a "very strange place" now the DUP was publicly defending an agreement "they sought to destroy and did all they could to wreck".

He said that the DUP had finally realised the agreement was the "only protection" unionism had against the backstop.

“Ulster Unionists will be particularly interested in the comments from Arlene Foster and Jeffrey Donaldson, given that they left the Ulster Unionist Party, supposedly because of the Belfast Agreement, yet are now to be found invoking it in the Unionist cause against the Backstop," Lord Empey said.

He also pointed out that Mrs Foster will be attending an event at the upcoming Conservative Party Conference billed as 'Abolishing the Backstop: preserving the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland’.

"That should be a very interesting session indeed coming from someone who left the Ulster Unionist Party because of her opposition to it,” Lord Empey said.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble (centre) leads Jeffrey Donaldson and Reg Empey into talks with the British and Irish Governments at Stormont in June 1999
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble (centre) leads Jeffrey Donaldson and Reg Empey into talks with the British and Irish Governments at Stormont in June 1999

The former Stormont Enterprise Minister accused the DUP of not having a coherent Brexit policy.

“The Ulster Unionist Party has put forward ideas in our recent paper and we are making a contribution in order to help find a workable and acceptable solution, but so far the DUP have put forward nothing and we are now very much at the eleventh hour," he said.

Before joining the DUP, Mrs Foster and Sir Jeffrey were long-time UUP members with Sir Jeffrey being tipped as a future party leader.

Sir Jeffrey fell out with UUP leader David Trimble over the Good Friday Agreement and eventually resigned from the party in December 2003.

He was joined by the then newly-elected UUP MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Arlene Foster and his close ally Lagan Valley MLA Norah Beare.

All three then joined the DUP who campaigned against the Good Friday Agreement ahead of the referendum on accepting it.

The DUP has been contacted in relation to Lord Empey's comments.

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