Belfast Telegraph

General Election: Jeffrey Donaldson believes DUP will have key role to play in Westminster after vote

Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The DUP's Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has predicted that his party will have significant influence in the next Parliament.

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"If you look at the opinion polls, they show the Conservatives returning with a small majority or without a majority," he said on Wednesday night.

"The votes of Northern Ireland MPS are once again going to be crucial."

The party's Lagan Valley candidate said he believed his party would have leverage in the House of Commons after next month's general election.

"The days of DUP influence are not at an end," he insisted.

"It is really important that we try to get a broad consensus on how to deal with Brexit.

"The DUP is very clear that if there is a hung Parliament, we will use our influence to secure a better deal for Northern Ireland because we don't believe that what is on the table is the best way forward for Northern Ireland."

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Claire Hanna answering a question
Claire Hanna answering a question

Sir Jeffrey was speaking after his party leader Arlene Foster made it clear that the DUP would not support a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Government in the event of a hung Parliament.

The DUP propped up the outgoing Tory Government with a confidence and supply deal.

Addressing business leaders as part of a panel of representatives from the five main local political parties, Sir Jeffrey spoke of his hopes for the restoration of power-sharing.

"Whilst we can go to Westminster and we can do what we do, I believe it is ultimately much more powerful if there is a collective voice from Northern Ireland saying what we need," he said.

The Stormont institutions collapsed two years ago following a breakdown in relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein South Down candidate Chris Hazzard said he also believed that devolved government could be restored.

He repeated his party's position that there had been a compromise on the talks table last year over the main stumbling block in the negotiations, an Irish Language Act.

SDLP South Belfast candidate Claire Hanna said if the DUP and Tories did not resume their deal after the general election, the dynamic would shift.

"I think if the Conservatives and DUP aren't in their arrangement, I think that changes the dynamic quite fundamentally in terms of how the UK Government approaches this," she said.

"We will come back to the answer of power-sharing, compromise and partnership, because there simply isn't another one."

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken sounded a warning at the CBI's 'An Audience With Northern Ireland's Political Leaders' event at Law Society House that devolved government in the region may not be salvageable.

The East Antrim candidate described himself as a "realist" as he said there must be a "fundamental shift in the culture of how we do government in Northern Ireland".

Stephen Farry, Chris Hazzard, CBI NI chair Trevor Lockhart, Claire Hanna, Steve Aiken, CBI NI director Angela McGowan and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson
Stephen Farry, Chris Hazzard, CBI NI chair Trevor Lockhart, Claire Hanna, Steve Aiken, CBI NI director Angela McGowan and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

He stated that it had been most definitely "not a partnership".

He said: "After this general election, we have got three weeks probably to see whether Northern Ireland's government is savable.

"If it is not, we are going to have to get into direct rule because we must have decisions which are going to work.

"We need to make Northern Ireland work again."

Meanwhile, the Alliance Party's deputy leader and North Down candidate Stephen Farry said he was not hopeful of progress, but that the stalemate had to end.

"When London is looking at Brexit, Northern Ireland is an afterthought. Even though we are the big complex issue in terms of how we address this, we are still an afterthought in their considerations," he said.

"The only people who care about this place are the five parties up here on this panel. We have to get it together.

"While I'm not hopeful because of what has happened in the past, the logic of us getting back round the table and getting this sorted is ever clearer."

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