Northern Ireland news

Stephen Farry voices concern as NIO says Tory-DUP deal spells 'exciting times'

The DUP and Conservatives sign the confidence and supply deal last year. Picture by Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

THE content of a Northern Ireland Office (NIO) job brief has prompted concerns about the transparency of the Tory-DUP confidence and supply deal.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said background information in the specification for more than two dozen policy advisers' jobs at the NIO "belies the reality" of the agreement that sees Arlene Foster's party prop-up Theresa May's minority government at Westminster.

The Irish News revealed this week that the NIO is seeking the secondment of 25 staff from the Northern Ireland civil service – including ten senior advisers' posts.

The new two-year posts, the salaries for which range from £36,000-£54,000, were advertised on Monday via an internal civil service trawl.

Former shadow secretary of state Owen Smith said the recruitment drive signalled "direct rule by stealth".

However, Mr Farry highlighted the job specification's claim that "there has never been a more exciting time to work at the heart of the NIO" due to Brexit, the DUP confidence and supply deal, and efforts to restore devolution.

The North Down MLA told The Irish News he was concerned about the choice of words.

"The wording of the job description mentions the government operating in partnership with the DUP," he said.

"That belies the reality of the confidence and supply agreement, which is supposed to be between the Conservative Party and the DUP."

The Alliance deputy leader said the job spec underlined his party's impression that the DUP was being consulted on many more issues than "were publicly put on the table during the signing of the agreement".

"There is clearly a serious issue over transparency, not to mention a potential equality problem in describing being in an agreement with the DUP as the most 'exciting' time there has been for the NIO," he said.

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