DUP pledges "best deal for Northern Ireland" ahead of UK government talks

The party has confirmed it is to enter discussions with the Conservative aimed at forming a government

DUP pledges "best deal for Northern Ireland" ahead of UK government talks

DUP members at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast, 09-06-2017. Image: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images

The Democratic Unionist Party has pledged to secure the best deal for Northern Ireland and its people in its upcoming negotiations on forming a government with the Conservative Party.

At a press conference this afternoon, DUP leader Arlene Foster said the union with Britain is “to the forefront of our hearts and minds” following the party’s best ever performance in a UK election.

She claimed the election result was a “great result for the union” adding “those who want to tear apart the union that we cherish and benefit from so hugely have been sent a clear and resounding message.”

“I make no apology for saying that the DUP will always strive for the best deal for Northern Ireland and its people but equally we want the best for all of the United Kingdom,” she said.

She said she had spoken with Prime Minister Theresa May Theresa May this morning adding, “we will enter discussions with the Conservatives to explore how it may be possible to bring stability to our nation at this time of great challenge.”

Earlier, the party, which returned 10 MPs to Westminster, has said any deal to support Mrs May would be on the basis of a confidence and supply arrangement.

The Conservatives took home 316 – a fall of 12 seats – and will need the DUP’s support to reach the 326 required to form a government.

While no deal has been agreed, DUP chief whip Jeffrey Donaldson has said the hung parliament puts the party “in a very strong negotiating position."

He said the party supports Mrs May’s call for a period of calm, adding “we certainly agree with that.”

“What is the best way to achieve that?” he asked. “I think that is what she will be thinking about this morning.”

DUP objectives

While the party campaigned to leave the EU, the DUP is keen to maintain a "frictionless border" in Ireland.

The party's leader Arlene Foster has spoken out against a hard Brexit – which could see a return to a hard border – and as such, is likely to make it a red-line issue.

In its manifesto, the party also called for an "appropriate support programme" for farmers in Northern Ireland following the divorce with the EU.

EU agricultural subsidies are worth about £350m (€399m) a year to farmers in the region.

The manifesto also called for a "fair share" for Northern Ireland from dividends from leaving the EU.

The party also wants the power to reduce its corporation tax rate to match that available in the Republic.

The party has pledged to "resist any assault" on universal benefits including the winter fuel allowance – which the Conservatives controversially pledged to curb – and backs the continuation of the "triple lock" on retirement payouts – which the Tory’s have proposed to ditch.

The DUP has called for a “new start” on the holding of controversial parades in the North – arguing that there has been an "exclusion of Orangeism from ever greater areas of public space" while it has also been critical of the handling of historical investigations into deaths during the troubles.

The negotiations with the Conservative Party come ahead of talks aimed at restoring power-sharing in the North.

The talks are expected to resume next week after being postponed in deadlock following Theresa May’s snap general election announcement.

While talks were described as “constructive” ahead of the pause – there has reportedly been little progress on key issues including the Irish Language Act and the legacy of the troubles.

Additional reporting from IRN ...