The chairman of the Northern Ireland Conservatives has said that he is “quite happy” that Theresa May is in talks with the DUP about a confidence and supply deal to keep her in office.
The NI Tories have been regular critics of both the DUP and Sinn Fein but now find the DUP wielding huge influence with senior Tories at Westminster.
Last week Adam Moore, who was election agent for the party’s South Belfast candidate, said in a letter to the News Letter: “Members of the Conservative party in Northern Ireland should be appalled by the negotiations between the prime minister and the DUP, and speak out publicly against it”.
He said that the government was now “beholden to one of the most reactionary parties in Europe” and added: “A deal between the two parties will destroy our credibility as a champion of inclusive, liberal values in opposition to the extreme social conservatism of the DUP.”
But the party’s chairman in Northern Ireland, Alan Dunlop, told the News Letter: “Of course, I want to see a Conservative government in power and if that has to be the case [getting DUP support], it has to be the case.”
He said that the country faced a “stark decision” between Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May, adding: “It’s either put up with the DUP or get Jeremy Corbyn.”
The businessman added: “I don’t have to agree with a customer to do business with them ... I’m quite happy with it in as far as my party will still be in government.”
Mr Dunlop said it was “unfortunate that some of our party members might not like it; I’m sorry about that, but that’s politics”.
Seven Tory candidates polled 3,895 votes between them in Northern Ireland and Mr Dunlop said that the party’s vote share “hasn’t really changed that much” over recent years.
He said that the Northern Ireland members had “a good working relationship and close working relationship with headquarters and senior members”.