Michael Gove in ‘strong position for DUP support’

No Tory leader will be good for the occupied six counties and the nationalist community

“But only 10 of them can vote for a new British Prime minister ” 😂😂😂😂lol a very small drop in the ocean

Michael Gove is one of several candidates seeking his party’s nomination to become leader

Michael Gove has said he is in a “strong position” to command the support of the DUP in his bid to become prime minister.

The Conservative leadership contender said he was a “unionist to my bootstraps”.

The DUP is crucial to keeping the Tories in power through the confidence-and-supply pact signed in June 2017.

Mr Gove also said, if he was prime minister, he would personally lead talks to restore devolution.

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Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Gove was asked about comments he made almost two decades ago, when he criticised the Good Friday Agreement which ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

In 2000, he wrote a paper, entitled Northern Ireland the Price of Peace, which said he believed the IRA could have been defeated and the Good Friday Agreement was a “capitulation” by then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr Gove defended his decision to be “very critical of terrorism in the past”, adding that was why he is “in a very strong position to command the support of our confidence-and-supply partners”.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson and previous Tory Chief Whip (who was sacked from his job) Gavin Williamson signed the pact between the DUP and Conservatives in 2017

“I was critical of some of the ways in which Tony Blair handled the peace process,” he said.

“But it is also the case we have had 20 years of peace in Northern Ireland and in my job I have worked with Irish government ministers to ensure gains of the peace process.”

Mr Gove is currently the environment secretary and has held two other cabinet roles – education secretary and justice secretary.

The Tory MP added that he wanted to see a Brexit deal that would strengthen the union of the United Kingdom.

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Theresa May will remain in office until a successor is chosen
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said it would meet with various Conservative candidates to assess who it could work with to deliver a Brexit deal that works for the whole of the UK.

DUP leader Arlene Foster recently met Home Secretary Sajid Javid in Belfast.

However, the party has also insisted that it is not a matter for it to say who leads the Conservative Party.

‘Stormont lock’
The DUP has repeatedly opposed the government’s EU withdrawal agreement due to concerns it could split Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, through the backstop.

The backstop is the insurance policy to maintain an open Irish border unless and until another solution is found.

The DUP and other Brexit-supporting MPs have called for the backstop to be scrapped or replaced by “alternative arrangements” in the withdrawal deal.

Mr Gove said he wanted to see a “full stop to the backstop” and that he favoured the use of the so-called “Stormont lock”, that could potentially limit the backstop, if it ever took effect.

In May, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “The Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive will have to give their consent on a cross-community basis for new regulations which are added to the backstop.”

It is possible that unionists could use a blocking mechanism known as the petition of concern.

What would happen if Stormont did veto any addition to the backstop is not entirely clear.

With many thanks to: BBC News England and Jayne McCormack BBC News NI Political Reporter for the original story

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Michael GoveDUP (Democratic Unionist Party)

February’s ‘agreement’ not on the table in Stormont talks, says DUP’s Arlene Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster and MP Emma Little-Pengelly at Storming on Monday. Credit: Michael McHugh/PA Wire

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said a rumoured “agreement” made between parties last February cannot form the basis for the latest round of Stormont talks.

Mrs Foster was speaking following a meeting between parties at Stormont on Monday, with talks now in their fourth week.

In February last year, it was widely reported that Sinn Fein and the DUP had reached agreement on a deal to restore power sharing.

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Since the collapse of the institutions more than two years ago, one of the main sticking points in the negotiations was Sinn Fein’s demand for an Irish Language Act.

Last February it was thought a three-stranded approach to dealing with the issue was finally settled on by the two parties.

It was reported that legislation was agreed comprising an Irish Language Act, an Ulster Scots Act and a broader Culture and Respect Act, however DUP leader Arlene Foster later publicly denied such a deal had been made.

Following Monday’s meeting, Mrs Foster reiterated her view that there was never any agreement and stated what was proposed could not form the basis for the current round of talks.

“Well of course that wasn’t an agreement. As we all know to get an agreement everybody has to agree, and there wasn’t an agreement last February. Very publicly there wasn’t an agreement,” she said.

“Obviously what we want to do is find a way forward that everybody is comfortable with, that everybody can subscribe to and that’s what we’re engaged in at the moment.”

The DUP leader said the party was “constructively engaging” in the talks.

“I very much hope that we can continue in the constructive way that we have been engaging and we can find a way forward,” she said.

“We are up for finding a way forward as quickly as possible. It has to be a balanced way forward and one that everyone in society can sign up to.”

Last week, the issue of an Irish Language Act made headlines again after more than 200 figures from the worlds of sport, music and politics signed an open letter to Leo Varadkar and Theresa May calling for legislation to be brought forward.

On Monday, Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill hinted that Irish language legislation is still a red line for the party.

“It is now time to move beyond that constructive engagement to actually delivering to bring about an Assembly and Executive again,” she said.

“Success would look like an Executive and Assembly that delivers for all citizens and implementation of previous agreements. That is what we are determined to achieve in this new phase.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Andrew Madden for the original story

Stormont department withholds details relating to DUP Brexit donor meetings

Constitutional Research Council chairman Richard Cook is a former vice chairman of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party



A STORMONT department has refused to disclose details about a business expressing interest in a development site following meetings with a DUP Brexit campaign donor.

The Department for Communities (DfC) was among several Northern Ireland public bodies which met with Richard Cook at the DUP’s request to discuss “investment opportunities” following the EU referendum, The Irish News last month revealed.

Mr Cook, a former vice chairman of the Scottish Conservatives, chairs the Constitutional Research Council (CRC) – a pro-union business group that donated £435,000 to the DUP during its Brexit campaign.

Questions have persisted over the DUP’s Brexit campaign money, of which £282,000 was spent on a front-page ad in the British newspaper Metro – a publication not circulated in Northern Ireland.

Mr Cook is CRC’s only known member. Northern Ireland legislation prevents the Electoral Commission from publishing political donations made before July 2017.

There have been calls for an Electoral Commission investigation into the CRC donation, but the DUP has said the donations were properly reported and Mr Cook was “treated the same as any other potential investor”.

The meetings involving Mr Cook with Invest NI, Belfast City Council (BCC) and DfC took place in August 2016 and February 2017, and were to discuss “potential investment opportunities in Northern Ireland”.

DfC previously said two officials met with Mr Cook in February 2017 about “potential development sites in Belfast city centre including Queen’s Quay”.

It said “no further action” was taken, but an ‘expression of interest’ about Queen’s Quay was later submitted by HCI Holdings Limited which “indicated that Richard Cook was to be the preferred point of contact”.

In a Freedom of Information (FOI) response to The Irish News, DfC said no minutes or notes were taken by officials of the 2017 meeting and there were no further meetings.

But the department said it was withholding correspondence relating to the ‘expression of interest’, arguing that it is exempt from disclosure as it was “information provided in confidence”.

It comes after Invest NI redacted some logs in relation to its meetings with Mr Cook.

No minutes were recorded, but an FOI uncovered emails and meeting details logged on an internal management system.

Some of the information was blanked out by Invest NI – including a section under the heading “meeting note”.

Invest NI said the details were redacted as they relate to “third party personal information” or disclosure would likely “prejudice the commercial interests of any person”.

Both Invest NI and BCC have previously said nothing materialised from their engagements with Mr Cook.

The DUP has said its “number one priority is to bring more and better jobs to Northern Ireland”, and Mr Cook was “treated the same as any other potential investor”.

With many thanks to: The Irish News and Brendan Hughes for the original story


Free Presbyterian sermon denouncing DUP disappeared overnight from church website

The sermon cited Arlene Foster’s attendance at a GAA match on a Sunday as evidence of the DUP’s move away from the values of the Free Presbyterian Church

A recording of a Free Presbyterian sermon which denounced the DUP’s moves to broaden its appeal was removed from a church website, it has emerged.

Amid growing tension between the church and the party which were the life work of the late Ian Paisley, there has over recent weeks been open conflict between several Free Presbyterian clerics and the DUP over the selection of the party’s first openly gay council candidate.

But the News Letter can reveal that 10 months ago, long before that decision, a sermon was preached from a Free Presbyterian pulpit which savaged the party – but was wiped from the church-maintained website the following day, without explanation.

However, before being removed someone made a copy of the sermon, entitled ‘The Deliverance of Northern Ireland’ and uploaded it to the Soundcloud website.

The Free Presbyterian Church has a long tradition of highly politicised sermons and pointed public denunciations of named individuals, something started by Ian Paisley.

The sermon was preached by Luke Barker, an English-born preacher who moved to Northern Ireland in 2011 to study at the Free Presbyterian theological college.

In his marathon 47-minute sermon last July, Mr Barker told the congregation in Markethill Free Presbyterian Church that there were “three areas where Christians look for deliverance” and said that he wanted to “discredit” one of them – that “Northern Ireland will not be delivered through politics”.

He said: “You say ‘why preach this message; why stick your neck out and cause trouble for yourself?’. Well, my motive is that I want to see this land blessed by God and delivered from its enemies; I’d like to see Northern Ireland remain part of the United Kingdom; I’d like to see Protestantism dominate this country; I’d like to see the cause of Islam, homosexuality, secularism, atheism and Irish republicanism confounded.”

He referred to “the rise of the sodomite or homosexual agenda” in Northern Ireland and “the collapse in morals just over the border in the Irish Republic”, and went on to say that “the problem with democracy … [is] the pressure to be popular … you’ve got to please the mob”.

Mr Barker said in the sermon: “I just automatically vote for the Democratic Unionist Party, the DUP – I say it from here: I vote for them every time”, but that he had become increasingly disillusioned with moves by the party.

He read from a News Letter report about Belfast Lord Mayor Brian Kingston’s attendance at a Gay Pride event and cited the party’s meeting with gay marriage campaigners as evidence of it abandoning its religious roots.

He said that he phoned the party and was put through to the press office where he said he was told that the mayor was “doing his civic duties”.

Mr Barker said that during a one-and-a-half hour phone call he quoted the Bible to the press officer and told him: “By mixing with these people and having your picture taken, then surely you’re consenting to what’s going on?”

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He said he was “naming names” because some Free Presbyterians may come to church each week and always vote DUP and “still think it’s a good Christian party that stands for truth, but it’s not; it’s gone”.

He denounced Arlene Foster’s attendance at a GAA match on a Sunday, a LGBT event in Stormont and Eid celebrations. And he also cited Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s willingness to welcome the pope to Northern Ireland. Mr Barker put it to the congregation: “Anyone here interested in what the pope has to say? Raise your hand now. No. He’s a devil; he’s an antichrist.”

Mr Barker concluded by saying: “I’ve given up on politics in Northern Ireland. I had great hopes when I came here. I’ve lost all confidence.”

The Rev James Porter was minister of the Markethill church at the time. When asked by the News Letter whether the sermon had been removed because it was critical of the DUP, the Rev Porter said: “I am no longer the minister in Markethill so I really would not want to comment.” He said that he thought that it was unlikely that anyone else would want to comment.

When asked by the News Letter if he had requested that the sermon to be removed, Mr Barker said: “I don’t know why it was removed from SermonAudio. I found it was removed on Monday and I was saddened by that. I have not had an explanation.”

He added: “I don’t regret anything I said in the sermon. All the points were based on the Bible and all the illustrations I researched and confirmed that they were accurate because I wanted to avoid using hearsay or rumour.”

* Audio of the full sermon can be listened to here.

With many thanks to: News Letter and Sam McBride for the original story

Legacy of Troubles brings ‘real challenges’ to island relations – Donaldson

Brexit and centenaries will bring ‘five years of difficult discussion’, says DUP MP

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said: ‘We need to get to a place where we agree that there were things that went wrong and should never have happened and we move on’. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times


Relationships on the island face “real challenges” if the legacy of the Troubles is not dealt with as people commemorate “very difficult centenaries” in the coming years, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

The unionist politician told the 58th British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, meeting in Co Wicklow, that his party was “absolutely committed” to restoring Northern Ireland’s devolved government, suspended since 2017.

He said there was a need for the North’s political institutions to be reformed and for a “joined-up approach” to deal with “our troubled past” and move towards the “ultimate objective” of the peace process: reconciliation.

The country was going to have “five years of really difficult discussion and debate alongside dealing with these very difficult centenaries,” he said.

“We do need to move beyond retribution, beyond the point where we are in some cases, and maybe on both sides, trying to rewrite the narrative of the Troubles,” said Mr Donaldson, speaking at the assembly at the Druid’s Glen resort.

“We need to get to a place where we agree that there were things that went wrong and should never have happened and we move on, not that we forget the past because the victims are there, but we have to move this beyond where we are now.”

Irish and British parliamentarians met at the assembly for the first time since the killing of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry last month. In an emotive final debate on “recent political developments,” they spoke positively about the impetus her death might bring to restore Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government.

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Lord Malcolm Bruce, the British Liberal Democrat politician, said the 65 per cent rise in support for the Alliance Party in Northern Ireland’s council elections earlier this month showed a “pulling together of the centre” but warned that the opportunity and mood for change “could easily evaporate”.

He said that he had visited a secondary school in Derry where every single student in a class of final-year students put their hands up when asked if they saw violence returning to the streets of the city.

“That was a few months ago. I’d like to think that things are a little bit more positive but it took the death of a journalist for that to happen,” he said.

Labour TD Joan Burton urged UK politicians to use the cross-party discussions on Brexit to pause and consider the potential for violence and what the UK leaving the EU could mean for Northern Ireland.

“The impact of a bad Brexit on the island of Ireland is a real risk; it does empower people who still believe in guns and bullets and violence and bombs to step out of the shadows,” she said.

British Labour MP Karin Smyth, the party’s shadow Northern Ireland minister, went further, warning of the risk to democratic structures “across these islands,” saying that “everything is now moving”.

She attributed the drive for Brexit to the loss of faith in democracy and how people do not feel that they have say over basic services such as education and health.

“Brexit will not end in three weeks or in six months. It is a long-term process and something we are not addressing,” said the MP who voted to remain in the EU in 2016.

Pro-Brexit Conservative MP Martin Vickers told the assembly that the idea that a second referendum would resolve Brexit was “a complete myth”, He said his constituents were angry that Brexit had not been delivered and warned against using a new prime minister as “an opportunity to go back to square one”.

“The anger and frustration is building up. We have got to bring it to a conclusion,” he said.

Lord Reginald Empey, former UUP leader, praised Ms McKee’s work, recalling her research on the murder of a Ulster Unionist MP for a book and visiting an Orange family from Co Armagh to write about how they celebrated July 12th.

“Here was a young woman prepared to look beyond the narrow confines of her particular background but was prepared to look at a wider picture,” he said.

With many thanks to: The Irish Times and Simon Carswell in Newtownmountkennedy for the original story

Paisley one of 377 MPs to have official credit card suspended


Parliament’s spending watchdog tried to prevent the public being told that 377 MPs, including the North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, had their official credit cards suspended for breaking rules on expenses.

DUP MP Mr Paisley ran up debts of £1,193 and had his credit card suspended while repaying it. Among others breaching rules were nine Cabinet ministers and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Exactly 10 years after the MPs expenses scandal, the body set up to ensure greater transparency has been accused of trying to prevent openness, rather than ensuring it.

The Daily Telegraph reported that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority tried to stop disclosure of MPs’ use of Parliamentary credit cards on the grounds it would have a “chilling effect” on its relationship with MPs and reduce public confidence in the regulatory system.

But a former High Court judge reversed the decision, saying that the risk of “embarrassing” MPs was no reason to keep the information secret.

Since the 2015 election, 377 MPs have all had their credit cards suspended, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show.

Many are repeat offenders – including Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd – and nine MPs have had their card suspended more than 10 times over the past three years.

From Amazon Prime subscriptions to incorrectly claimed rent and household bills, expenses claimed by MPs since 2015 have led to the Parliamentary watchdog suspending their credit cards – the toughest punishment it can issue.

Sir Alistair Graham, the former chairman of the committee on standards in public life, said: “It shows there is either something fundamentally wrong with the system, or we’ve got a bunch of highly incompetent slovenly MPs who can’t keep to the rules.

“The rest of the nation would only expect to have to comply in similar circumstances.”

Parliamentary credit cards were introduced after the 2009 MPs expenses scandal to ensure that MPs’ spending could be closely monitored and accounted for to the penny.

Cards are suspended when MPs break the rules, for example failing to provide receipts to justify payments in the required 30 days, incorrect spending which does not comply with the rules, and failing to repay money owed to the taxpayer for claims which were not eligible.

Mr Paisley said: “These were historic issues that have each been resolved to the satisfaction of the independent auditor. On the majority of the occasions the card was switched off because of lateness in processing the account. Once the claims were verified the card was reactivated.”

Ms Rudd had her credit card suspended on five occasions between November 2015 and September 2016 while Mr Corbyn has had his card suspended twice – in August 2015 and September 2017.

Other MPs who have had their cards suspended include leading Brexiteer Boris Johnson.

In total there have been 1,114 suspensions of MPs’ payment cards since the 2015 election.

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Mark Bain for the original story

Arlene Foster and senior DUP members meet Theresa May at Chequers

Arlene Foster met Theresa May on Thursday


Senior DUP members have been in Chequers for a private meeting with the prime minister.

The party’s leadership Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds, and chief whip Jeffrey Donaldson met Theresa May on Thursday afternoon.

The DUP said the meeting was a useful opportunity to remind Mrs May that they want the Stormont Assembly restored.

They added that they wanted the result of the EU referendum delivered in a way which “strengthens the union”.

The confidence-and-supply pact the DUP shares with the Conservative Party is due for renewal next month.

“>http://The pact was signed in June 2017

A spokesperson for Downing Street said the prime minister held a “private political meeting” with the DUP at her residence.

With many thanks to: BBCNI and Jayne McCormack Political Reporter for the original story