New momentum expected in the Stormont talks as both premiers engage

So Theresa averted a crash after all. She may even have been taking part  in a piece of theatre typical of the old peace process days.  The intervention of not just one but both prime ministers in succession suggests more momentum will be injected into the Stormont talks, spurred ironically by the prospect  of a  DUP deal with the Tory government at Westminster. That’s even before any outsider is sure it’s done and dusted – apart from the new taoiseach.

The best line I’ve seen so far is Leo Varadkar’s intervention  tomorrow when Arlene Foster meets him. This a bold move ahead of the northern nationalists.  He will look for assurances that DUP deal will not  breach the  impartiality requirements of the GFA, If he gets them we may expect joint pressure from May and Varadkar to seal a Stormont  deal.

It may even be that Gerry Adams is a willing accessory to the choreography. .   .

Meanwhile  at Westminster  the Queen’ s speech will be on Wednesday, with or without a DUP deal

Tom Newton Dunn pol ed of the Sun tweets 


Theresa now challenging DUP not to vote down her Govt, with potentially no deal agreed at all. Highest possible stakes brinkmanship.

I bet it’ll agreed by then.  From May’s point of view a DUP deal is  still worth having, for although they  will always vote to keep Corbyn out they can still make a lot of trouble for the government on a host of issues.  And under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act it is now more difficult to dislodge a government as it requires a 65% vote of the Commons to do so. That seems inconceivable unless the Conservative party splits.

Conservative source who briefed journalists said Theresa May was “confident” that the Queen’s speech would be passed but he did not say the DUP would definitely vote for it. He implied that they would, because he said that the the Tories and the DUP were committed to a four-point agenda involving “strengthening the union, combating terrorism, delivering Brexit and delivering prosperity”, but it sounded as if the DUP has not yet given a cast-iron commitment to vote in favour.

But May does seem confident that the DUP would not vote against. The DUP has said it would not act in such a way as to allow Jeremy Corbyn to become prime minister. And as long as the DUP at least abstains, the Tories will definitely win the vote.

Then the Ulster parade. First up Gerry. What a surprise!

We have just finished a meeting with the British prime minister and her secretary of state. And we told her very directly that she was in breach of the Good Friday agreement and we itemised those matters in which she was dilatory or in default in relation to that agreement.

Adams also said that he and his colleagues handed over the resignation letter written by the late Martin McGuinness when he stood down as Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister. Adams said that set out the problems that were holding up the restoration of power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that a deal between the government and the DUP cannot be one that gives the DUP power over the Conservative Party.

“We have to judge it on its merits and see what the deal looks like,” he said.

“I think this (Stormont deal) can be done by the end of June, it requires a change of attitude from the rest of the parties and requires the British government to prove to the rest of us that they are not under the thumb of the DUP.”

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long told the media outside Downing Street that they had a “very constructive engagement” with the prime minister but that “actions speak louder than words” when it comes to the government’s impartiality in the talks.

“She did not tell us the detail of the deal, nor did she tell us she had a deal nailed down,” said Mrs Long. “She simply said that they were working on an arrangement for confidence and supply.”

Mrs Long added: “She (Mrs May) sought to give us reassurance on the issue of neutrality but we have to be practical about these things.

“In reality, the government is here simply because the DUP allow it to be so.”

UUP leader Robin Swann said that Mrs May reassured him that the “entire deal (with the DUP) will be made public”.

“One thing we have made clear to the prime minister is that we are concerned that any deal reached is open and transparent and that everybody gets to see the entire negotiation.”

He added that calls from other parties for the NI Secretary to be replaced as chair of the talks is a “side show” and a “waste of time and a distraction


Henry McDonald reports that  the new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has wasted no time in getting stuck in. He seems to know more than Westminster MPs. The London-Dublin partnership is alive and well under new management.

The Democratic Unionist leader and now Westminster kingmaker, Arlene Foster, will travel to Dublin tomorrow to meet Ireland’s new taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.

The Irish prime minister is hosting the leaders of all the main political parties in Northern Ireland as he weighs in on efforts to push them towards agreement to restore power sharing in the region by the end of this month.

Senior Irish sources said they were optimistic that a deal on devolution was still possible and believe that today’s meetings between Theresa May and the Northern Irish parties is part of “choreography” designed to build trust before the main talks next week.

The Irish sources said they expected there would be some “transparency” about the looming deal between the DUP and the Conservatives over putting the Tories back into power.

Crucially, they told the Guardian that, contrary to some reports, they expect the DUP will vote for the Queen’s speech next Wednesday rather than simply abstain.

The Irish government believes May will stress in her meetings today that the British are still committed to the “rigorous impartiality” enshrined in the Good Friday agreement.

As for the delay in revealing the DUP-Tory deal, the Irish say that up to 90% of the agreement is probably finalised but that some of the economic dividends the DUP are seeking from the arrangement are currently being evaluated by the Treasury.


Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London