Theresa May to meet five Northern Ireland parties

Nigel Dodds and Arlene FosterImage copyright
EPA

Image caption

DUP leaders met Mrs May in Downing Street on Tuesday

Northern Ireland’s main parties are expected to hold talks with the prime minister in Downing Street later.

The DUP, Sinn Féin, the UUP, Alliance and the SDLP will hold separate meetings with Theresa May.

She has already held talks with the DUP this week about a deal to support her minority Conservative government.

Since last week’s general election, Mrs May has spent much of her time talking about Northern Ireland – and Thursday will be no different.

Thursday’s talks will focus on attempts to restore devolution at Stormont by the end of this month.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire has said there was very little time left to reach a deal before a 29 June deadline, but that local parties had it in their hands to take control of their future.

While the Downing Street discussions will focus on restoring devolution, the prospect of a DUP-Conservative deal at Westminster will undoubtedly be raised, says BBC NI political correspondent Stephen Walker.

The deal is now not expected to be announced before next week.

DUP sources have told the BBC an announcement on a deal with Tories had been delayed because of the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower blaze.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has demanded details of any Conservative-DUP deal, calling it a “nonsense situation”.

“We want to know what is in the deal they are offering to the DUP and we want to know when it is going to be put before Parliament,” he said.

On Wednesday, Mr Corbyn announced that Owen Smith would be his shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The parties’ talks with Mrs May will focus on attempts to restore devolution at Stormont by the end of this month

The Conservatives are having to rely on the support of 10 DUP MPs after they fell eight seats short of winning an overall majority at the general election.

It means Mrs May will remain as prime minister and the DUP MPs will be central to the survival of a Conservative Party administration.

‘Terms and conditions’

Devolved government in Northern Ireland broke down in January.

The late deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, stood down to protest the DUP’s handling of an energy scandal, in a move that triggered a snap election.

The DUP and Conservatives were close to reaching agreement to enable Mrs May to form a minority government and the talks were not in trouble, according to DUP sources.

But they added that the London tower block fire made an announcement on Wednesday “inappropriate”.

The DUP source told BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith the two parties were now finalising the “terms and conditions” of an agreement after Mrs May and DUP leader Arlene Foster met on Tuesday.

Downing Street sources told our correspondent talk of a delay in announcing a deal was “not coming from us.”

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