Tory-DUP deal: Conservative chief whip Gavin Williamson in Belfast for alliance talks

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Indy Politics

The government Chief Whip Gavin Williamson has flown to Belfast to open discussions with the Democratic Unionist Party for talks on "how best they can provide support" for Theresa May's government.

It is understood initial talks will include the possibility of a formal coalition, though there have been warnings that any deal would threaten to undermine the Good Friday agreement, the centre piece of the Northern Ireland peace process.

Under the terms of the agreement, Unionists and Republicans are supposed to share power, with the Westminster government acting as a broker, and can step in if relations  between the two groups, Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party, break down.

There are fears that if the DUP are themselves part of the government, the neutral role of the UK government, via the Northern Ireland Secretary, would be compromised.  

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has expressed grave doubts over the anticipated deal between the Conservatives and the DUP, in whatever form it takes.

"History will show, alliances between Ulster unionism and British unionism has always ended in tears," he said.

"It is far better to look to our own place, to all of the people here, to deal with the people of this island, this part of the island as one community."

What demands the DUP might make of the Conservatives in a coalition arrangement are not clear, 

The DUP is pro-Brexit but, like all parties involved, does not want to see a hard border between on the Nothern Irish border.

It has hardline views on social affairs, and is against same sex marriage and abortion, but these matters are already devolved to the Northern Irish assembly.  

The little known Mr Williamson is regarded internally as one of the party's most senior figures, having previously served as David Cameron's parliamentary secretary.

He keeps a pet tarantula on his desk in the Whips' office. 

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