Northern Ireland

Boris Johnson's private DUP dinner criticised

Britain"s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives an interview on arrival at Stormont House Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Boris Johnson met DUP leaders for a private dinner on Tuesday evening

Stormont parties have criticised the prime minister for holding a private dinner with senior DUP figures when he arrived in Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

Boris Johnson met DUP leader Arlene Foster and MPs Nigel Dodds and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

Mrs Foster said they shared views on Brexit and restoring devolution.

But Sinn Féin said no-one believed Boris Johnson's commitment to be impartial towards all the Stormont parties.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said she told the prime minister he must not be "the DUP's gopher".

She was speaking to the media after meeting Mr Johnson at Stormont on Wednesday morning.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald gave a press conference after her meeting with the prime minister

The new PM met all the Stormont parties on Wednesday to discuss restoring devolution.

Ms McDonald said she did not believe the PM's claim that he would act with "total impartiality" towards all parties in Northern Ireland.

"It's not our business who dines with whom, but the politics of this is the DUP have used this to ensure the continuing denial of rights and trample on the views of the majority of people who live here," she said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Alliance Party leader Naomi Long also met Mr Johnson

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said if the prime minister had a plan for Brexit, "he disguised it well."

"The impact of Brexit on the talks here is palpable - it is having a destabilising effect as would any no-deal Brexit," she said.

"What we need now is a period of stability in order that we can try to get devolution restored, try to rebuild trust between the parties and try to do the jobs for which we were elected."

She also said the "real test of impartiality" for Mr Johnson would come when "pressure" needed to be applied on the DUP.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said there was already "direct rule by creep" given recent decisions taken for Northern Ireland at Westminster.

He called on Boris Johnson to implement direct rule if there was a no-deal Brexit.

Image copyright PA
Image caption UUP leader Robin Swann said the prime minister should implement direct rule

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon said she believed Mr Johnson had no understanding of the issues facing Northern Ireland concerning Brexit and restoring devolution.

After meeting the prime minister she said she had told him he needed to stop "pandering to the DUP".

Image copyright PA
Image caption The SDLP deputy leader said the DUP's dinner with Mr Johnson was "unhelpful and damaging"

Ms Mallon also said she raised Tuesday night's dinner with the DUP and said it was unhelpful and damaging to relationships with other parties.

She said if a no-deal Brexit happens, then the two governments should immediately set out plans for joint authority - joint rule between London and Dublin.

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