Belfast Telegraph

Theresa May has only self to blame, say politicians on this side of the Irish Sea

Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Local political figures have given a lukewarm farewell to outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May.

DUP leader Arlene Foster commended her "dutiful approach", but others were less forgiving.

Mrs Foster's party entered a 'confidence and supply' arrangement with the Conservatives after the 2017 general election.

She said: "Whilst at times there were differences in our approach, particularly on Brexit, we enjoyed a respectful and courteous relationship."

She also thanked Mrs May for approving an extra £1bn in funding for Northern Ireland as part of the pact with the DUP.

She added: "I pay tribute to her selfless service in the interests of the United Kingdom and wish her well for the future."

But Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Tory pact with the DUP had "a negative influence" on the political process.

"The chaos at Westminster cannot be allowed to distract from the very real threat that Brexit poses to Ireland," she said.

"They also should not derail progress in the north talks."

Ms McDonald said a Brexit deal was still possible but it was paramount any future leader protected rights and agreements.

"Theresa May set unrealisable red lines in the Brexit negotiations and only eventually accepted the need for a backstop as the bare minimum to avoid a hard border," she added.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said Mrs May's dedication was "unquestionable" but her downfall was of her own making.

"The backstop is the problem that needs dealt with and it ultimately broke Theresa May`s premiership," he said.

"The country is deeply divided and the Prime Minister's successor will have to seek to heal those divisions whilst delivering a Brexit which maintains the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said her resignation showed Brexit was a "fundamentally undeliverable prospect". He said attempts to deliver it had cost the Government 38 ministers and now two Prime Ministers since the 2016 referendum. He conceded that it was "undeniable" Mrs May had exhausted every avenue to find agreement in the House of Commons but there was no consensus to be found. "A new Prime Minister should recognise the mistakes made by Theresa May, revoke Article 50 and put an end to this political, diplomatic and economic car crash."

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said any new leader would have to show "realism and honesty" in the role.

"While Theresa May conducted herself in a dignified and courteous manner, it doesn't change the fact she has left the UK in a worse place than when she took up the role," he said.

People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll posted on Twitter: "No sympathy or fair play to Theresa May for doing a 'difficult job' as some might say. She wrecked the lives of millions."

In Dublin Taoiseach Leo Varadar warned British politics was entering a phase that could be "very dangerous" for Ireland.

He said a Eurosceptic Tory who wants to "repudiate" Britain's EU withdrawal agreement could replace her.

Speaking after voting in the Republic's European and local elections yesterday, he said: "Obviously, as anyone can see, British politics is consumed by Brexit and will be consumed by Brexit for a very long time.

"It now means we enter a new phase when it comes to Brexit and a phase that may be a very dangerous one for Ireland. In the next couple of months we may see the election of a Eurosceptic prime minister who wants to repudiate the withdrawal agreement and go for a no-deal, or we may even see a new British Government that wants a close relationship with the EU and goes for a second referendum.

"Whatever happens we are going to hold our nerve, we are going to continue to build and strengthen and deepen our alliance across the European Union, and we will make sure we see Ireland through this."

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said: "Her fate is a reflection of the emerging and ongoing crisis in British politics as a result of Brexit and is a reminder of how unstable and potentially damaging this process remains."

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