Northern Ireland news


Arlene Foster called out by Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond over 'very skewed interpretation' of Brexit process

Arlene Foster with the then taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney and Simon Harris in March 2020. Picture by Alan Lewis

Arlene Foster has been described as having an "incessant need to demonise” the Fine Gael leadership after claiming the party's “aggressive nationalism” has damaged unionism's relationship with Dublin.

Neale Richmond described the former DUP leader's views as a "very skewed interpretation" and criticism of his party leadership as a "reckless strategy that comes with very real consequences".

The Dublin TD said that despite holding the balance of power at Westminster, the DUP under Mrs Foster's leadership never sought to mitigate the impact of Brexit, which the party had campaigned for.

The former first minister turned GB News commentator, who in January described the post-Brexit trade arrangements as a "gateway of opportunity", has claimed that during the Brexit negotiations the Irish government did not respect the principle of consent.

“Relationships with the Dublin government have never been at such a lower ebb since I became involved in frontline politics, particularly with Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar,” she said.

She said the pair had "used their position to undermine the constitutional position".

"I can only put their aggressive nationalism down to the growth of Sinn Féin in the Republic," she told the Sunday Times.

Mrs Foster claimed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson "gave into the protocol as proposed by Leo Varadkar".

The former DUP leader, who was unceremoniously ousted by her party in April, said she and her deputy Nigel Dodds warned the Tory leader about the protocol's "implications for the union and for businesses and consumers – we couldn’t have been clearer".

“When it came into being in January, I and colleagues tried to deal with the problems as they arose but it soon became clear this wasn’t possible and fundamental change was needed," she said.

Mr Richmond rejected what he described as a "very skewed interpretation of the reality of politics on this island and the history of the Brexit process".

“Throughout the Brexit process we have seen repeated efforts by some DUP representatives to personalise their criticism towards Leo and Simon, a needless a reckless strategy that comes with very real consequences," he told The Irish News.

He said the previous and current Irish government had consistently worked to protect the Good Friday Agreement and consistently warned of the "potential damage Brexit could cause".

The Fine Gael TD said relations were not as bad as Mrs Foster claimed and "indeed the incessant need to demonise certain Fine Gael representatives does little to improve relations".

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