Belfast Telegraph

Theresa May attends Balmoral Show during brief visit to Northern Ireland

  • 'We want to see no return to the borders of the past, no hard border,' says PM
  • Sinn Fein's John O’Dowd accuses May of 'breath-taking arrogance'

Theresa May has visited the Balmoral Show as part of a brief visit to Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister arrived at Balmoral Park, near Lisburn, on Saturday.

She was accompanied by the Secretary of State James Brokenshire and four Tory candidates in the general election.

The PM said she was "personally engaged" in resolving the powersharing deadlock in Belfast.

Mrs May said "we all want to see" an agreement reached by the deadline shortly after the June 8 General Election.

She told broadcasters: "We have got to make sure we do resolve the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

"I'm very clear that we want to see no return to the borders of the past, no hard border but I'm clear that we need to see as seamless and frictionless a border as possible."

Mrs May said the issue had been set out in her Article 50 letter triggering the start of Brexit negotiations and detailed in the response from Brussels.

She added: "There's goodwill on all sides."

On her first stop at the agricultural and food show she met with representatives from the Women's Institute who were dressed up as nursery rhyme characters as part of a themed event.

The Prime Minister stopped and posed for selfies with children and chatted to surprised show-goers during the 25-minute visit.

As she walked past the parade ring, Mrs May bumped into DUP leader Arlene Foster and her son and stopped for a quick chat.

The Prime Minister was later asked about criticism that she had not been involved enough in resolving the Stormont political crisis but pointed to meetings she held before Easter with Mrs Foster and Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill.

"I have been personally engaged. I have had contact with both Michelle and Arlene," she said.

"But what is important if we are going to see what we all want, which is a return to a strong and stable devolved administration here in Northern Ireland, is that the parties here in Northern Ireland come together and agree to an agreement that can enable that devolved administration to be established."

Sinn Fein's John O’Dowd accused the PM of "breath-taking arrogance".

Mr O'Dowd said: "The arrogance of Theresa May is astounding visiting the Balmoral Show, while her Tory cabinet is planning to impose Brexit on the north which will be disastrous for our farming and agri-food industries. Since taking office Theresa May has visited the north once, taken one media question and then departed.

"Now that Ms May has ticked a box and visited the north one more time for the election she will jet off home and continue to ignore the democratic wishes of the people here.

"This is a British Prime Minister whose Tory party received just 0.3% of the vote in the last Assembly election in the north.

"Her politics have been rejected both at the ballot box and in a referendum where the people of the north voted to remain within the EU. Sinn Fein have spent four days at the Balmoral show engaging with farmers and producers who are righty very concerned with the effects of Brexit on their businesses, their employees and their ability to trade across the island of Ireland.

"Sinn Fein will continue to make the case for designated special status for the north within the EU and stand against the Tory Brexit, cuts and disregard for the people of the north."

The SDLP's Daniel McCrossan tweeted: "Theresa May couldn't fly to NI for talks process or to try save our institutions, but finds time to visit the Balmoral show! Ridiculous PM!"

Mrs May is visiting all parts of the UK before the general election.


Belfast Telegraph Digital


From Belfast Telegraph