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Theresa May to visit Northern Ireland 'at the request of the DUP'

May said that she would visit the region in the next few weeks.

UK PRIME MINISTER Theresa May is to visit Northern Ireland in the next few weeks, she told the House of Commons today.

During Prime Minister’s Questions today, the Tory leader said that the visit was related to Brexit and the collapse of the Stormont government.

“We are considering a number of issues in relation to Northern Ireland at the moment, in the context of both Brexit and the devolved administration,” she told MPs.

“We hope that the administration and the assembly will get back up and running.”

The Stormont Assembly collapsed 18 months ago after Sinn Féin withdrew its support for the Executive over the cash-for-ash scandal. After this, a series of negotiations and talks got underway to try and get a devolved government back up and running in Northern Ireland, but to no avail.

Civil servants are now making decisions to keep services in the North running – some of which are being questioned and reviewed. The absence of an Assembly means that no legislation has been put forward or debated.

Westminster has already passed a budget for Northern Ireland, but there’s talk of direct rule being implemented if the current political stalemate between Sinn Féin and the DUP, the two power-sharing parties in the north, continues.

The DUP is also supporting Theresa May’s minority government after a snap election in June last year.

Brexit

Reacting to the news of the British premier’s visit, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said that May’s visit was in response to a request from his party.

“The DUP invited the Prime Minister to visit Northern Ireland once again and I welcome the confirmation today that she will be taking up that invitation in the next few weeks,” Dodds said.

It will be an opportunity to reinforce the message that Northern Ireland’s place as part of the United Kingdom remains a core value of the PM. That is more important than ever given the decision by republicans to try to use Brexit to break up the UK.

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has thrown the future of Northern Ireland into doubt. If the UK leaves customs union and the single market, and doesn’t strike a deal with the EU that would confirm similar customs regulation, then a border could go up on the island of Ireland to check products and goods.

If there is no deal struck between the UK and the EU (and remember that they need agreement on every issue to get a final deal) then the UK would go “crashing out” of the EU and a hard border would automatically go up.

The UK government has been criticised for repeatedly saying that it would leave the customs union and the single market, and also asserting that there would be no return ro a hard border, but without putting forward any proposals on how this could be achieved.

Today, Dodds said:

The Prime Minister has been fully engaged on the issues impacting Northern Ireland, both in terms of our exit from the European Union and the block placed on a restoration of devolution by one party namely Sinn Fein.

“Northern Ireland cannot continue in a vacuum. The Prime Minister’s visit will be a chance to reinforce the message that decisions must be taken in relation to our hospitals, schools and infrastructure. The imposition of red-lines on the return of devolution is impacting upon everyone who lives here.”

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