Belfast Telegraph

Sir John Major 'dubious' over DUP deal with Theresa May - warns of need to protect Northern Ireland peace process from 'hard men' returning to streets

DUP leader Arlene Foster and MP Nigel Dodds arrive at 10 Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
DUP leader Arlene Foster and MP Nigel Dodds arrive at 10 Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: DUP leader Arlene Foster checks her watch as she and MP Nigel Dodds arrive at 10 Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. Discussions between the DUP and the Conservative party are continuing in the wake of the UK general election as Prime Minister Theresa May looks to form a government with the help of the Democratic Unionist party's ten Westminster seats. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
DUP leader Arlene Foster and DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds arriving at 10 Downing Street in London for talks on a deal to prop up a Tory minority administration.Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster (L), and DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds arrive at 10 Downing Street in central London on June 13, 2017, for a meeting with Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Theresa May. British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday was heading into difficult talks with the DUP on securing a working majority after a crushing electoral setback. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALLBEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
DUP leader Arlene Foster and DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds arriving at 10 Downing Street in London for talks on a deal to prop up a Tory minority administration. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster (R), and DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds arrive at 10 Downing Street in central London on June 13, 2017, for a meeting with Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Theresa May. British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday was heading into difficult talks with the DUP on securing a working majority after a crushing electoral setback. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALLBEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: DUP leader Arlene Foster checks her watch as she arrives at 10 Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. Discussions between the DUP and the Conservative party are continuing in the wake of the UK general election as Prime Minister Theresa May looks to form a government with the help of the Democratic Unionist party's ten Westminster seats. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster (L), and DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds arrive at 10 Downing Street in central London on June 13, 2017, for a meeting with Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Theresa May. British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday was heading into difficult talks with the DUP on securing a working majority after a crushing electoral setback. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALLBEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
DUP leader Arlene Foster and DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds arriving at 10 Downing Street in London for talks on a deal to prop up a Tory minority administration. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in central London on June 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALLBEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Greg Clark arrives at Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. The Prime Minister has re-shuffled her cabinet after the snap general election which failed to return a clear overall majority winner. Theresa May is set to meet Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster later today in hope of making an agreement to form a minority Government. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis arrives at Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. The Prime Minister has re-shuffled her cabinet after the snap general election which failed to return a clear overall majority winner. Theresa May is set to meet Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster later today in hope of making an agreement to form a minority Government. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox arrives at 10 Downing Street in London for a Cabinet meeting. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday June 13, 2017. See PA story POLITICS Election. Photo credit should read: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Secretary of State for Work and Pensions David Gauke arrives at Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. The Prime Minister has re-shuffled her cabinet after the snap general election which failed to return a clear overall majority winner. Theresa May is set to meet Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster later today in hope of making an agreement to form a minority Government. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling arrives at Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. The Prime Minister has re-shuffled her cabinet after the snap general election which failed to return a clear overall majority winner. Theresa May is set to meet Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster later today in hope of making an agreement to form a minority Government. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC arrives at Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. The Prime Minister has re-shuffled her cabinet after the snap general election which failed to return a clear overall majority winner. Theresa May is set to meet Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster later today in hope of making an agreement to form a minority Government. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid arrives at Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. The Prime Minister has re-shuffled her cabinet after the snap general election which failed to return a clear overall majority winner. Theresa May is set to meet Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster later today in hope of making an agreement to form a minority Government. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson arrives at Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. The Prime Minister has re-shuffled her cabinet after the snap general election which failed to return a clear overall majority winner. Theresa May is set to meet Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster later today in hope of making an agreement to form a minority Government. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Britain's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Michael Gove arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in central London on June 13, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday was heading into difficult talks with a hardline Northern Irish party on securing a working majority after a crushing electoral setback. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALLBEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel arrives at Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. The Prime Minister has re-shuffled her cabinet after the snap general election which failed to return a clear overall majority winner. Theresa May is set to meet Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster later today in hope of making an agreement to form a minority Government. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns arrives at Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. The Prime Minister has re-shuffled her cabinet after the snap general election which failed to return a clear overall majority winner. Theresa May is set to meet Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster later today in hope of making an agreement to form a minority Government. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Britain's Home Secretary Amber Rudd arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in central London on June 13, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday was heading into difficult talks with a hardline Northern Irish party on securing a working majority after a crushing electoral setback. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALLBEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice David Lidington arrives at Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. The Prime Minister has re-shuffled her cabinet after the snap general election which failed to return a clear overall majority winner. Theresa May is set to meet Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster later today in hope of making an agreement to form a minority Government. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson arrives at Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. The Prime Minister has re-shuffled her cabinet after the snap general election which failed to return a clear overall majority winner. Theresa May is set to meet Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster later today in hope of making an agreement to form a minority Government. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire arrives at Downing Street on June 13, 2017 in London, England. The Prime Minister has re-shuffled her cabinet after the snap general election which failed to return a clear overall majority winner. Theresa May is set to meet Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster later today in hope of making an agreement to form a minority Government. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in central London on June 13, 2017. British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday was heading into difficult talks with a hardline Northern Irish party on securing a working majority after a crushing electoral setback. / AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALLBEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JUNE 12: DUP leader Arlene Foster holds a press conference at Stormont Castle as the Stormont assembly power sharing negotiations reconvene following the general election on June 12, 2017 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Discussions between the DUP and the Conservative party are also continuing in the wake of the UK general election as Prime Minister Theresa May looks to form a government with the help of the Democratic Unionist parties ten Westminster seats. Stormont and the political situation in Northern Ireland has been in limbo following the collapse of the power sharing executive due to the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme scandal which implicated the DUP. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Claire Williamson

By Claire Williamson

Former prime minister John Major, who was one of the architects of the peace process in Northern Ireland, has expressed his concern about the DUP government deal.

Sir John Major was speaking on BBC Radio 4's programme The World At One as the DUP's Arlene Foster arrived at Downing Street for talks with Prime Minister Theresa May on a deal to prop up a Tory minority government.

The Prime Minister will be desperate to get agreement from the DUP to back her legislative programme in the House of Commons or risk her government falling.

Sir John said he was "dubious and wary" about the potential deal and said that peace process must be protected.

He highlighted the danger that the UK government will not be seen as "impartial" if it is "locked into a parliamentary deal" with one of Northern Ireland's parties.

He said: "The peace process is fragile. People shouldn't regard it as a given, it isn't certain, it is under stress, it is fragile.

"And although I don't expect it suddenly to collapse - we have to take care with it and that everything we do does not exaggerate the underlying differences that are still there in the Northern Ireland  community."

Sir John said Mrs May had his support and that he wanted her to succeed and stay as Prime Minister but that governing without the DUP was an option "well worth considering" as his "main concern" was the peace process.

He said: "A fundamental part of that peace process is that the UK government needs to be impartial between all the competing interests in Northern Ireland.

"The danger is that however much any government tries they will not be seen to be impartial if they are locked into a parliamentary deal at Westminster with one of the Northern Ireland parties.

"You never know in what unpredictable way events will turn out and we cannot know if that impartiality will be crucial at some stage in the future.

"It is very important there is an honest broker and the only one can be the UK government,

"If they cease to be seen as such, one can't be quite certain how events will unwind and that worries me a great deal."

Sir John said from the outset he sees difficulties in Northern Ireland getting the Executive back together and for issues arising during Brexit negotiations.

He added that the deal could "create friction" across the rest of the UK which "could cost votes for the Conservative party".

He said: "The reintroduction of anything that resembles a hard border will be catastrophic for the peace process and for relations between Northern Ireland and the South.

"You have to be wary of what could happen and cautious of what you do.

"With the peace process we need be prepared for the unexpected, we need to hope for the best but prepare for the worst."

He said his fear was that if one community is "aggrieved" that that would allow the "hard men lurking in the background to emerge again".

Sir John said: "The last thing anyone wishes to see is one or other communities to feel so aggrieved that the hard men who are still there lurking in the corner of the communities, decide they wish to return to some form of violence.

"We need to do everything we conceivably can to make sure that doesn't happen. And that does require an impartial UK government and that is my first but not only concern.

Sir John said governing without the DUP is an "option well worth considering".

He added: "I think that is an option that is well worth considering that doesn't carry the baggage with it for the future - that a deal with the DUP undoubtedly would carry."

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