N Ireland party inks financial deal to back May’s Tories

AP, LONDON

Tue, Jun 27, 2017 - Page 1

The leader of a Northern Ireland-based party yesterday struck a £1.5 billion (US$1.9 billion) deal with British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party to support her minority government in a crucial vote on her legislative package later this week.

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster said the funding would “address the unique circumstances” of Northern Ireland.

As part of the deal, funds are to be provided to boost Northern Ireland’s economy and offer investment in new infrastructure, health and education.

May said that the two parties “share many values.”

“We also share the desire to ensure a strong government, able to put through its program and provide for issues like the Brexit negotiations, but also national security issues,” May said. “So the agreement we have come to is a very, very good one.”

However, the figure is certain to raise questions at a time of funding pressure to support police and security services following several extremist attacks, as well as a national housing crisis following a devastating fire in a London high-rise that killed at least 79 people.

The other parts of the UK are also certain to object to special consideration for Northern Ireland.

Foster’s party had demanded tangible benefits for Northern Ireland in terms of jobs and investment in order to offer its support for May, who lost her majority in the House of Commons in a snap election earlier this month.

The prime minister needs the DUP’s 10 lawmakers to back her legislative program to stay in power.

As part of the deal, money will be earmarked to address a bottleneck between three busy roads in Northern Ireland and to open up “new opportunities for growth and connectivity” in digital infrastructure.

In an annex outlining the deal, the government said it “recognizes that Northern Ireland has unique circumstances within the United Kingdom, not least as a consequence of responding to challenges of the past,” and would therefore allocate £50 million per year for two years “to address immediate pressures in health and education.”

However, critics, including members of the Conservative Party, have objected to any kind of alliance with the DUP because of some of its views, including opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion.

Northern Ireland’s other political parties have also objected to any kind of alliance with the DUP, as it jeopardizes the government’s pledge to be a neutral arbiter as part of the Good Friday agreement.