Theresa May must put Northern Ireland ahead of her DUP deal

Caitlin Morrison
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Arlene Foster and Theresa May have met several times since the election (Source: Getty)

The old adage that "a week is a long time in politics" has been demonstrated perfectly by goings on at Number 10 Downing Street over the last seven days.

This time last week, many people across Great Britain were frantically Googling "Democratic Unionist Party" as it began to look increasingly likely that Theresa May would have to approach the Northern Irish party for a deal if the Tories wanted to form a government.

The proposal was met with criticism on both sides of the Irish Sea. Many voters, who may have been unaware of the DUP’s very existence before last Friday, are dismayed by the hardline unionist party’s traditional, religious belief system and some of the policies they espouse.

Others are more concerned about the effect a pact between the DUP and the Tories could have on peace in Northern Ireland.

Former Prime Minister John Major summed up fears around this issue earlier this week, when he said he was greatly worried about the “fragile” peace in the region. As someone who played a part in the struggle to bring about that peace, Major is better placed than most to comment.

He rightly pointed out that if the Northern Irish people no longer see the UK government as an honest broker in the ongoing unionist-nationalist debate, “one can't be certain how events will unwind”.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s other four main parties (the Alliance Party, the SDLP, Sinn Fein and the UUP) met with May yesterday to discuss their misgivings about her plans. However, she seems determined to go ahead with them.

The Prime Minister’s reasons for pursuing a deal are understandable - she called this election with the stated aim of strengthening her mandate ahead of Brexit negotiations, now she is scrambling to put a government in place - but it can’t be worth putting peace in the UK at risk. After all, to do so would hurt her ultimate aim of staying in control as the country heads into another major political shift, with Brexit talks due to start in just three days.

And May must remember that although her position has been weakened by the election, she still holds the power when it comes to deciding on the next government. If she does strike a deal with the DUP, the Prime Minister must do everything within her power to make sure that deal can operate according to the terms of the Good Friday Agreement - and that stability and security in Northern Ireland remains a top priority.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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