Theresa May's DUP deal will put lives at risk, says former Northern Ireland secretary

Theresa May's planned deal with the DUP has been ridiculed by Shaun Woodward

Theresa May's planned deal with the DUP has been ridiculed by Shaun Woodward

Monday, June 12, 2017

Theresa May's prospective deal with the Democratic Unionist Party will put lives at risk, according to a former secretary of state for Northern Ireland.

Shaun Woodward also said the proposed agreement violated the terms of the Good Friday Agreement which bound the British government to a policy of neutrality in Northern Ireland.

Woodward, the former MP for St Helens who served as Northern Ireland secretary between 2007 and 2010, spoke to Sam Delaney about the Tories' plan to form a minority government, propped up by a confidence-and-supply agreement with the DUP.

The Northern Irish party has sparked widespread condemnation for its hardline policies on issues such as gay marriage, but May is reportedly close to finalising a deal with them nonetheless.

Woodward told Sam: "Back in the 1990s we all agreed that the British government, just like the Irish government, had to be neutral. It had to be seen by Unionists and Nationalists as 'no-side'.

"What is being put together here at best will create suspicion, and at worse mean that things that have been agreed, like dealing with the outstanding issues on parades [and] flags, issues like the past, the Saville inquiry consequences, things like gay marriage, all of these things....

"If the DUP get agreement with Mrs May not to advance these things, the Nationalist and Republican community in Northern Ireland are going to feel cheated, and it was feeling cheated that brought about the catastrophe that brought about The Troubles at the end of the 60s."

Woodward suggested that Sinn Fein supporters will feel they've been marginalised in favour of the DUP, and this will inflame tensions amongst those who already reject the peace process, and potentially catalyse a return to violence.

"If you now put the suspicion back, even if you don't actually make specific agreements, the damage you do is huge," Woodward said. 

"It's reckless beyond belief and the really awful thing is that this is about a Tory clinging on to power for an election she didn't need to have.

"They would rather risk peace in Northern Ireland than do the proper thing which is to say 'you know what, I lost, I resign.' At best, it's foolish and stupid. At worst, it's utterly reckless and wrong."