DUP asked Tories to fund spad, report claims

First Secretary of State Damian Green

THE DUP asked the Conservatives to fund a special adviser that would be paid for with government money, according to reports in the British press.

It was also claimed that after the proposal was ruled out, First Secretary of State Damian Green suggested the Tories could fund the position in a secret side deal to the confidence and supply arrangements that saw the DUP agree to prop up Theresa May's minority government in Westminster.

Sinn Féin described the claims as "no surprise", while a Northern Ireland Conservatives activist told The Irish News he was deeply unhappy.

Downing Street and the DUP have not denied that funding for a 'spad' was discussed in the aftermath of June's confidence and supply deal.

According to a report in The Times, the initial proposal that would have seen the role funded from public money is understood to have come from the DUP but was turned down by Sue Gray, the British government's head of propriety and ethics, who works in Mr Green's department.

The report claims some aides argued that a government-funded position for the DUP was needed to smooth the functioning of the Tory-DUP “co-ordination committee”.

They compared it to the Tory-Lib Dem “quad” during the coalition years. It was said to have been rejected because the Tory-DUP arrangement is parliamentary and the DUP are not part of the government.

The Times report claimed it was then suggested that the Tory party would pay directly for the position.

But the arrangement floundered as it would have meant Mr Green - Theresa's May's deputy - was in effect agreeing to fund the work of a competitor to the Conservative Party.

Sinn Féin MLA Sinead Ennis said the claims were "no surprise".

"The British Tory party has bought DUP support for austerity cuts to public services in the north in health, education, infrastructure and housing."

Northern Ireland Conservative activist Roger Lomas told The Irish News such an arrangement would have been unacceptable.

"If true, then with political allies and colleagues like Damian, who needs enemies," he said.

Downing Street did not comment on the discussions or on whether the prime minister was aware of Mr Green's alleged offer, but said the proposal had never resulted in any payments going ahead.

Mr Green's office said it did not comment on private conversations.

A statement from the DUP said: “If The Times had contacted the DUP before printing this story, we could have pointed out that no such arrangement exists.

"The parties' coordination committee continues to meet to ensure stable government in the United Kingdom."

Mr Green's future is already in the balance pending a Cabinet Office investigation into his conduct.

He is accused of having pornography on a parliamentary computer and of making inappropriate advances to a young activist, both of which he strongly denies.

Mr Green attended the DUP annual conference on Saturday with Julian Smith, the Tories' chief whip.

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