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Time to take decisions on Northern Ireland matters, Foster tells May

 

By Suzanne Breen

Arlene Foster has urged the Prime Minister to intervene and take more decisions in Northern Ireland as the political stalemate continues at Stormont.

The DUP leader was speaking after meeting Theresa May at Downing Street yesterday. She said the implementation of her party's £1 billion 'confidence and supply' deal with the Tories was raised during the discussions.

"I think everyone is crying out for decisions to be taken in Northern Ireland so it is good to hear that the Prime Minister is looking at a range of options in relation to those matters," Mrs Foster said.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the party's support for the minority Tory Government was not unconditional.

With Mrs May expected to outline a new plan for Brexit at a Cabinet meeting later this week, Mr Dodds was asked whether the DUP would support her regardless of what happened.

He replied: "We don't give blank cheques to anybody and I think it is very clear that we don't."

Mr Dodds stated that his party wanted to see a "proper Brexit" which fulfilled the referendum result.

He said: "We have been very clear that has to be on the basis of the whole of the UK leaving the EU as one. I'm confident the PM will deliver on that."

Mr Dodds said the Prime Minister had pledged that the UK would not remain in the customs union or single market after Brexit.

A new customs plan to solve the Irish border issue had been discussed but Mrs May "didn't go into any details", he said.

"We discussed the need to make sure that the EU have a comprehensive policy from the UK Government, that the position of Northern Ireland should be very firmly confirmed, that there is no border down the Irish Sea," Mr Dodds added.

"She was very firm on that point... there will be no breaking up of the UK economically, constitutionally or politically."

Mrs Foster questioned why there was excitement about a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference later this month. The mechanism gives Dublin a consultative role on non-devolved issues affecting Northern Ireland.

She stated it did not have any decision-making powers.

"As we have always said it's a talking shop," she said.

"I know others portray it in a different way but again it's important that you go back to what the Intergovernmental Conference is about.

"It's talking about East/West matters, it doesn't have any executive functions. I think that's important, it doesn't have any executive functions and while others might wish it to have executive functions, it doesn't, it's a talking shop."

The British and Irish Governments announced last week that the conference will reconvene in London on July 25, 11 years since its last meeting.

"I know everyone is getting very excited about it but I'm sure there will be other things that have come around that look much more exciting on the 25th of July," Mrs Foster said.

Following the DUP leader's 90-minute Downing Street meeting, Sinn Fein hit out at her party for "propping up a Government that has brought us austerity, public service cuts and a chaotic Brexit".

Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady said: "It is dishonest and hypocritical for them to complain about cuts to services while propping up the Government responsible for these cuts.

"Every day we see the impact of Tory austerity on our schools and hospitals, the human tragedy of privatisation on care homes and the dearth of infrastructure. That is the real price of the Tory-DUP pact and it is the ordinary people of the North who are paying for it."

Mr Brady added: "The DUP's grasp of public spending priorities is best illustrated in their fantasy bridge to Scotland proposal.

"In return for the DUP's support for a hard Brexit against the will of the people in the North, the Tories turn a blind eye to the DUP's discrimination against citizens. That wouldn't be tolerated by people in England and it shouldn't be tolerated in the North either."

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