No sign of DUP limbo ending as Arlene Foster departs

Arlene Foster has returned to Northern Ireland, leaving DUP colleagues to continue talks with the Conservative Party.

Her departure suggests a deal to end the limbo caused by last week’s General Election could take some time to negotiate.

On one side of the table are the DUP’s Nigel Dodds, MP for Belfast North, and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, MP for Lagan Valley.

Among those representing the Tories are Damien Green MP and Gavin Williamson MP, Theresa May’s Chief Whip.

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Damien Green, the First Secretary of State and Deputy Prime Minister, has been a Member of Parliament for 20 years.

But when asked if he or Gavin Williamson knew anything about Northern Ireland, one source replied: “They do now.”

Nigel Dodds and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, on the other hand, know everything there is to know about political negotiation.

Dodds, who is Mrs Foster’s deputy and the party’s Westminster leader, is a former barrister with a tough determination.


Arlene Foster

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In 1998, he survived an IRA murder bid. One of the officers in his close protection detail was shot and wounded in the attack.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP’s chief whip, is Northern Ireland’s longest-serving MP, having been first elected in 1997.

Along with Mrs Foster, he walked out of the Ulster Unionist Party’s negotiating team an hour before the Good Friday Agreement.

They defected to the Democratic Unionists in protest over the early release of IRA inmates from the notorious Maze Prison.


Senior Tories have expressed concern about a pact with the DUP and Arlene Foster. File pic

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Two of Mr Donaldson’s cousins had been murdered by the IRA while serving as police officers in Northern Ireland.

Behind closed doors, the Tories are attempting to strike a deal with a highly experienced negotiating team.

Three times in five days, Downing Street has reported, or at least hinted at, a deal that there is still no sign of.

But the pressure on Mrs May increases with every day that passes without a rescheduling of the Queen’s Speech.

The Tories’ best hope is that the loyal subjects of the DUP won’t want to keep Her Majesty waiting too long.


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