Wales politics

General election 2017: DUP deal 'risks peace process'

Theresa May and Arlene Foster Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Theresa May's Conservatives are seeking a deal with Arlene Foster's DUP

The Northern Ireland peace process is likely to be "sacrificed to save Theresa May's skin", former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Murphy warns.

Mrs May is seeking a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party after losing her majority in Thursday's election.

Lord Murphy said such a deal could undermine decades of efforts to bring stability to Northern Ireland.

The former Labour MP for Torfaen, Northern Ireland Secretary from 2002 to 2005, was speaking to BBC Radio Wales.

Image caption Lord Murphy has been credited with having a key role in the Northern Ireland peace process

The Northern Ireland peace process is based on an assurance by the British government that it has "no selfish or strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland".

Lord Murphy told the Sunday Supplement programme that a government depending on the DUP for its majority could not make such a pledge.

"No it can't, and I think the problem now is that the peace process is likely to be sacrificed in order to save Theresa May's skin," he said.

"And that's a terrible business, because we've gone through 20 years now of bringing peace and stability and prosperity to Northern Ireland.

"All that, in my view, is now being jeopardised by this deal."

Lord Murphy said he could understand the DUP wanting to help the prime minister and "their view about being a United Kingdom party and all those things" but "we're right in the middle of negotiations to set up the assembly and executive in Belfast, it all collapsed before the general election".

He added: "Sinn Fein is now the other very big party in Northern Ireland - they now obviously are very unhappy with the situation where the DUP is seen as the partner with the British government, and therefore in a very, very different position."

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Media captionLord Hain said any deal could have "huge consequences" for the government's policy under Theresa May

Another former Labour Northern Ireland secretary, ex-Neath MP Peter Hain, said he also had great concerns over the impact any Conservative-DUP pact could have.

"You've got to be neutral," he said.

"If the government, if the prime minister is dependent on the DUP then all sorts of back-room deals will be done which could impact on the Good Friday process - could put it in jeopardy and could destroy confidence amongst other parties."

"I don't just mean Sinn Fein - the SDLP, the Ulster Unionists, the Alliance party - they are crucial to keeping the Northern Ireland peace process going forward."

He added the DUP were "very good negotiators" who would be likely to push for more investment in Northern Ireland, which could see demands follow from the other devolved nations.

"I think she [Theresa May] is going to find it very tough to strike a deal that doesn't involve handing extra money to Northern Ireland and then, if that happens, Wales is going to say 'what about us', Scotland is going to say 'what about us', and so I think this has got huge consequences for the government's policies under Theresa May," he said.

BBC Northern Ireland editor Mark Devenport said the DUP had indicted its role in forming a government at Westminster did not change the desire to restore devolved government at Stormont.

The party said it remained ready to form an executive without preconditions.

'Polar opposite'

Speaking on BBC Sunday Politics Wales, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said the DUP had worked with previous governments, referencing a time in 2008, when then-Labour leader and prime minister Gordon Brown worked with the party to bring forward security legislation.

Asked about DUP views on gay rights and abortion, Mr Davies said: "Many of the views they hold are polar opposite to the views that I hold."

But he said: "It's not taking a formal coalition and discussing those particular issues. Its more about the big political questions of the day that obviously need to command the majority of the house."

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