Northern Ireland politics hits PM May’s coalition talks

Backlash from key parties in Northern Ireland has hit Prime Minister Theresa May’s efforts to strike a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to shore up her minority government. 

world Updated: Jun 16, 2017 18:26 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
UK government,Northern Ireland,Prime Minister Theresa May
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (centre left) and leader of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill (left) speak to the press after a meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street in London on June 15, 2017. (AP)

Hobbled by alack of majority after the June 8 election, Prime Minister Theresa May’s efforts to strikea coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to shore up her minority government have been hit by a backlash from key parties in Northern Ireland.

The ruling Conservative Party won 318 seats in the 650-member House of Commons, falling short of the majority mark of 326. Northern Ireland-based DUP won 10 seats. Talks between the two are ongoing but the opening of the new Parliament is set for Wednesday.

On the agenda is the Queen’s Speech (equivalent to the president’s address in India’s Parliament), which is drafted by the ruling party and mentions its policies. Failure to get the speech passed in the House is seen as the ruling party losing confidence.

May, however, expressed confidence about getting the speech passed, even if a deal is not reached with the DUP before the state opening of Parliament. She has held meetings with key Northern Ireland leaders, including the DUP.

Several Conservative and other leaders have cautioned against the coalition since it would compromise London’s neutral position between the contending groups in Northern Ireland - the Republicans and Unionists - and adversely hit the Good Friday Agreement.

Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein told May specifically ofhis opposition to the coalition during a meeting with her at Downing Street: “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.”

Coolum Eastwood of the Social Democratic and Labour Party also expressed doubts: "The prime minister will have to do a lot more to convince us that the DUP tail isn’t wagging the Tory dog. Their influence on the British government is a cause for deep concern that must be addressed to assure the public and political parties of the independence of the talks process.

“The Irish government will be critical to that and they should reassert their role as co-guarantors of our agreements,” he added.

May held talks with the new Ireland Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, after his confirmation in the post in the country’s Parliament on Wednesday. Ireland has a key role in the arrangements and structures setout in theGood Friday Agreement that has led to aperiod of peace in the trouble-torn region.

First Published: Jun 16, 2017 18:26 IST