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Irish premier warns May not to put Good Friday Agreement at risk


Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Irish premier Enda Kenny has told Theresa May the outworking of the General Election must not put the Good Friday Agreement at risk.

The Taoiseach's intervention comes amid concerns about the impact on the peace process of any DUP/Conservative link-up.

The 1998 peace accord, which provides the template for powersharing at Stormont, commits the UK and Irish governments to demonstrate "rigorous impartiality" when it comes to the differing political traditions in Northern Ireland.

The Conservatives' ability to adhere to such a commitment if they are wedded to a parliamentary alliance with the DUP has been questioned.

The issue is particularly relevant at the moment, as talks to save the crisis-hit powersharing institutions at Stormont are due to resume on Monday.

Mr Kenny, who will formally retire as Taoiseach in the coming days to be replaced by new Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, said he spoke with Mrs May about protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

He also raised concern that there are no longer any Irish nationalist MPs in Westminster, after the SDLP lost all its three seats.

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Mr Kenny tweeted: " Spoke w PM May - indicated my concern that nothing should happen to put GoodFridayAgrmt at risk & absence of nationalist voice in Westminster."

Earlier, Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said a DUP/Tory agreement would "not necessarily" undermine the Northern Ireland peace process.

Charlie Flanagan said he has raised the matter with Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire.

Mr Flanagan was asked about suggestions that any Conservative deal with the DUP would undermine Westminster's impartiality as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, also known as the Belfast Agreement.

He told ITV's Peston on Sunday: "Well, not necessarily the case. Of course, it remains to be seen what the nature of that deal is.

"But this is an issue I did address the evening before last with Secretary of State James Brokenshire.

"I look forward to meeting with him again tomorrow if his appointment is reaffirmed, but yes I think it's an important issue that you raise - t he objectivity of both governments, and both governments working strictly in accordance with our legal responsibilities under the Belfast Agreement, t he Irish government as co-guarantor, indeed the British Government as co-guarantor."

Mr Flanagan added the EU member states are "ready to roll" when it comes to Brexit talks.

These are due to start within days although they could be delayed given the UK's political uncertainty.

Mr Flanagan said: "I 'm conscious of the fact that this clock is ticking. We're a year now since the referendum.

"We lost some time over the last seven weeks during the General Election campaign.

"Europe is ready to start these negotiations. Ireland is ready to sit with our 26 EU colleagues and commence the negotiations because uncertainty is the enemy of stability and uncertainty is the enemy of business."

Asked if he would be against a delay, Mr Flanagan said: "We're ready to roll. My understanding from all of my EU colleagues is that they're ready to roll.

"It's been said that Europe wishes to punish the UK, I see no evidence of that, I see no intention of that."

Labour's Yvette Cooper, appearing on Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday, suggested the Tories' deal with the DUP could put the Northern Ireland peace process in jeopardy.

"This DUP deal that they have done is really dodgy, it is unsustainable," the former shadow home secretary said.

"But it is not just bad in terms of the politics of the House of Commons, it is also really irresponsible for the Northern Ireland peace process.

"The idea that the British Government could be taking sides having been the guarantor of the Good Friday agreement and the subsequent peace agreements, I think is really troubling."

She said the Conservatives are "cobbling together" a Government and are putting party interest ahead of national interest and the Northern Ireland peace process.

"It is really, really worrying," she said.

A No10 spokeswoman said: "Prime Minister Theresa May spoke on the phone to Taoiseach Enda Kenny today. The Prime Minister explained that she is working towards a confidence and supply deal with the DUP which would provide stability and certainty for the UK going forward.

"They confirmed their joint commitment to restoring a Northern Ireland Executive as soon as possible and agreed that both countries would continue to engage closely to bring about political stability in Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister reiterated that the Government's approach and objectives in the forthcoming talks to re-establish the Northern Ireland Executive remained unchanged.

"The two leaders spoke about their willingness to continue close cooperation as the UK embarks on leaving the European Union, with no return to a hard border.

"The Prime Minister thanked Mr Kenny for helping to make UK-Ireland relations stronger than ever, wished him well for the future and said she looked forward to continuing a close relationship with his successor."

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