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Foster says Taoiseach's recent comments were 'detrimental to unionist-Fine Gael relationships'

The DUP leader said there is a feeling that unionist concerns about the Withdrawal Agreement are being dismissed.

Image: PA Archive/PA Images

DUP LEADER ARLENE Foster has said the relationship between her party and the Irish government is currently ‘not very good’.

In an interview with RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, Foster said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s comments on unionist fears about the Withdrawal Agreement were a “trite definition of unionism” and her birthright to be a British citizen.

Speaking in Brussels a week ago about the new deal agreed between the UK and EU, Varadkar had said: “The queen will still be the queen, the point will still be the pound, people will still post letters in Royal Mail red letter post boxes”.

“Northern Ireland will still be part of the United Kingdom and because of the Good Friday [Belfast] Agreement. That is protected until such a time, should that time ever arise, when the majority of the people in Northern Ireland vote otherwise,” he said.

Speaking to RTÉ at her party’s conference this weekend, Foster said these comments had been “detrimental to unionist-Fine Gael relationships”.

She said: “I don’t think relationships are very good at the moment and I regret that.”

I think we’ll have to work to try to get to a better place now.

Foster said unionism was more fundamental than simply posting letters in a red post box, adding that there is a “naive and trite” understanding of unionist concerns and there is a feeling they are being dismissed.

She said the Taoiseach and Tánaiste should be aware of the fact that the DUP are not the only ones who are opposed to the Withdrawal Agreement and the Irish government needs to try to understand where people are coming from.

“Over 40% of people in Northern Ireland voted for Brexit so I think we need to remember that is the case as well,” she said.

Foster said people want to “get on with their lives” and they want to see political leaders “concentrating on the things that matter to them”.

“There’s a lot to be done on Brexit, but we also need to get back to doing the normal everyday things because politics is essentially paused here in Northern Ireland and I think that’s wrong. We need to find a pathway back to devolution.”

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