DUP’s Foster counters fresh claims over ‘draft deal’

DUP leader Arlene Foster. Credit: PA

DUP leader Arlene Foster has moved to counter fresh claims around an alleged draft deal Sinn Féin insists was struck to restore power-sharing at Stormont.

Mrs Foster has already denied that she handed over the proposed text of an agreement to Sinn Féin Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill five days before the DUP pulled the plug on negotiations.

She has said “numerous” papers were passed to Mrs O’Neill during the talks process, but said that none of them amounted to a draft deal.

Following reports on Tuesday that DUP deputy leader was in the room when the alleged draft document was exchanged, the party leader claimed that was “complete and utter nonsense”.

She added: “I want to say that very, very clearly – Nigel was not in the room.”

With little to no prospect of devolution being restored soon, I am focused on getting decisions made for everyone in Northern Ireland through Westminster. Arguing over the scraps of negotiations ignores the serious issues that need addressed.

DUP leader Arlene Foster

Further claims have been made that DUP members briefed hardline loyalists linked to paramilitaries about the contents of the supposed deal.

When questioned about that during a press conference in Brussels, Mrs Foster said: “I am not saying it didn’t take place.

“I am saying they didn’t do it on my behalf or on behalf of the Democratic Unionist Party.”

The party has been accused of getting cold feet at the eleventh hour in the face of an internal revolt from grassroot members angry about potential concessions on issues such as the Irish language.

However, the DUP continues to deny that a deal had been reached prior to the acrimonious collapse of the talks on Valentine’s Day.