General Election

Enda Kenny warns Theresa May not to put Good Friday Agreement at risk

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association
Richard Wheeler and David Young, Press Association

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has told Theresa May a DUP/Conservative pact must not put the Good Friday Agreement at risk.

Mr Kenny's intervention comes amid concerns about the impact on the north's political process of a link-up between the two parties.

The 1998 agreement commits the British and Irish governments to demonstrate "rigorous impartiality".

Mr Kenny, who will formally retire as Taoiseach in the coming days as he makes way for newly-elected Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, spoke to Mrs May by phone yesterday.

A spokesman for the Irish government said the prime minister outlined the proposed supply and confidence arrangement between her party and the DUP, and the Taoiseach "indicated his concern that nothing should happen to put the Good Friday Agreement at risk and the challenge that this agreement will bring".

"He also noted the absence of any nationalist voice in Westminster following the election.

"Both leaders agreed that of immediate concern were efforts to establish an executive as soon as possible, with exploratory discussions with the NI parties to take place tomorrow."

Earlier, the Republic's foreign minister Charlie Flanagan was asked whether the pact would undermine the British government's impartiality as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement.

He said: "Well, not necessarily the case. Of course, it remains to be seen what the nature of that deal is."

However, Jonathan Powell, Labour prime minister Tony Blair's ex-chief of staff, claimed that the Tories' deal with the DUP could put the peace process in jeopardy.

"If Mrs May depends on the DUP... to form a government, it will be impossible for it to be even-handed," he wrote in The Guardian.

"The other parties in Northern Ireland will know that the unionists can pull the plug at any stage and hold the government hostage."

Labour's Yvette Cooper, appearing on Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday, also suggested the deal was "unsustainable".

"But it is not just bad in terms of the politics of the House of Commons, it is also really irresponsible for the Northern Ireland peace process," she said.

"The idea that the British government could be taking sides having been the guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and the subsequent peace agreements, I think is really troubling."

A No 10 spokeswoman said the prime minister and taoiseach "confirmed their joint commitment to restoring a Northern Ireland Executive as soon as possible and agreed that both countries would continue to engage closely to bring about political stability in Northern Ireland".

"The Prime Minister reiterated that the government's approach and objectives in the forthcoming talks to re-establish the Northern Ireland Executive remained unchanged."

She added: "The two leaders spoke about their willingness to continue close cooperation as the UK embarks on leaving the European Union, with no return to a hard border."

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General Election