DUP man believes party will still have ‘leverage’ with Tories after election

A senior DUP politician has said he believes his party will continue to “have leverage” over the Conservative Party following the election.

Lagan Valley candidate Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he is “not convinced” that Boris Johnson’s Tories will be returned with a “huge majority”, which he said will give his party “leverage”.

He made the comments a day after Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster made it clear that her party would not support a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government in a hung parliament.

The DUP propped up the outgoing government with a confidence and supply deal.

General Election 2019
General Election 2019

Addressing business leaders in a panel of representatives from the five main political parties in Northern Ireland, Sir Jeffrey spoke of his hopes for a resumption of devolved government in the region.

“I am not convinced Boris Johnson is going to come back with a huge majority and I think that gives us leverage,” he said.

“Whilst we can go to Westminster and we can do what we do, I believe it is ultimately much more powerful if there is a collective voice from Northern Ireland saying what we need.”

The Stormont institutions have been collapsed for more than two years following a breakdown in relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

General Election 2019
General Election 2019

Sinn Fein South Down candidate Chris Hazzard said he also felt hopeful that devolved government could be restored.

He repeated his party’s position that there had been a compromise on the talks table last year over one of the sticking points in negotiations – calls for an Irish Language Act.

SDLP South Belfast candidate Claire Hanna said if the DUP and Conservatives do not resume their deal after the election, the dynamic will change.

“I think if the Conservatives and DUP aren’t in their arrangement, I think that changes the dynamic quite fundamentally in terms of how the UK Government approaches this,” she said.

“We will come back to the answer of powersharing, compromise and partnership because there simply isn’t another one.”

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken sounded a warning at the CBI’s An Audience With Northern Ireland’s Political Leaders event at Law Society House on Wednesday morning that devolved government in the region may not be savable.

The East Antrim candidate described himself as a “realist” as he said there needs to be a “fundamental shift in the culture of how we do government in Northern Ireland”, describing how it had been as “not a partnership”.

“After this General Election we have got three weeks probably to see whether Northern Ireland’s government is savable. If it is not, we are going to have to get into direct rule because we must have decisions which are going to work,” he said.

“We need to make Northern Ireland work again.”

General Election 2019
General Election 2019

Meanwhile, the Alliance Party’s North Down candidate, Stephen Farry, said he was not hopeful but that the stalemate needed to be sorted.

“When London is looking at Brexit, Northern Ireland is an afterthought. Even though we are the big complex issue in terms of how we address this, we are still an afterthought in their considerations,” he said.

“The only people who care about this place are the five parties up here on this panel. We have to get it together.

“While I’m not hopeful because of what has happened in the past, the logic of us getting back round the table and getting this sorted is ever clearer.”