Dublin interference raising tension and damaging relations: DUP

Relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic are being eroded by 'interfering and counter-productive' language from the Irish government, a DUP MP has warned.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 18th December 2017, 7:00 am
Updated Monday, 18th December 2017, 4:11 pm
DUP MP Gregory Campbell
DUP MP Gregory Campbell

Gregory Campbell said comments made by the Republic’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney – in which he spoke of “other choices” to end the ongoing political stalemate at Stormont – were “raising tensions” and damaging relations between Belfast and Dublin.

It comes after Mr Coveney said the Irish government’s relationship with the DUP needs to be repaired.

The Republic’s foreign affairs minister blamed tensions around agreeing phase one of the Brexit deal and said he wanted to meet the DUP before the end of the year.

Mr Coveney said the absence of a power-sharing ministerial Executive at Stormont was part of the problem of Brexit.

If Sinn Fein and the DUP cannot agree to resurrect the Executive, Mr Coveney said the Good Friday Agreement needed to be looked back at, because that was where the rules were set.

But his remarks were not received well by Mr Campbell, who said Mr Coveney was simply “worsening a problem which he created”.

He added: “It was Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney who triggered these tensions and now they are simply repeating their mistakes and causing more tensions.”

Mr Coveney told Irish broadcaster RTE’s The Week in Politics: “Because of the tension around trying to get the deal we felt was needed for everyone on this island, yes, of course there is repair work to do.”

He added: “Then there is the prospect of a whole series of other choices – from another election, to the triggering of intergovernmental conferences to make decisions on Northern Ireland.

“That is not where we want to be. That will cause tension. It will be a very frosty environment to make decisions in ... so we all have a responsibility, in a practical sense, to find a way forward.”

Mr Campbell said that while he welcomed Mr Coveney’s desire to meet with the DUP, he cautioned: “He seems to not have grasped how these difficulties began in the first place.

“They are worsening the problem they created and it is totally counter-productive. He shouldn’t be setting up straw men and knocking them down.”

The DUP have previously accused Irish premier Leo Varadkar of “politicking” over Brexit.

Warning Mr Coveney against “interference” in NI matters, the East Londonderry MP added: “He talks about other choices – including another election or the triggering of intergovernmental conferences.

“Unless he plans to get Fine Gael to organise in Northern Ireland, these are things which have nothing to do with him.

“The secretary of state is the only one who can call an election in NI; the Irish government has no input or no opportunity for involvement. And intergovernmental conferences are nothing more than a sticking plaster.”