Woodward: DUP deal could risk peace process

Shaun Woodward served as St Helens South's MP between 2001 and 2015
Shaun Woodward served as St Helens South's MP between 2001 and 2015

Former St Helens MP Shaun Woodward says he believes Theresa May’s pact with the Democratic Unionist Party will put lives at risk.

Mr Woodward served as secretary of state for Northern Ireland for three years and believes the ‘confidence and supply’ deal between the Tories and the DUP could have disastrous consequence for the peace process.

Woodward told Talk Radio: “Back in the 1990s we all agreed that the British government, just like the Irish government, had to be neutral. It had to be seen by Unionists and Nationalists as ‘no-side’.

“What is being put together here at best will create suspicion, and at worse mean that things that have been agreed, like dealing with the outstanding issues on parades [and] flags, issues like the past, the Saville inquiry consequences, things like gay marriage, all of these things....

“If the DUP get agreement with Mrs May not to advance these things, the Nationalist and Republican community in Northern Ireland are going to feel cheated, and it was feeling cheated that brought about the catastrophe that brought about The Troubles at the end of the 60s.”

Mr Woodward is particular concerned that Sinn Fein supporters will feel marginalised, inflaming tensions among those who already reject the peace process and risking a return to violence.

“If you now put the suspicion back, even if you don’t actually make specific agreements, the damage you do is huge,” Woodward said.

“It’s reckless beyond belief and the really awful thing is that this is about a Tory clinging on to power for an election she didn’t need to have.

“They would rather risk peace in Northern Ireland than do the proper thing which is to say ‘you know what, I lost, I resign.’ At best, it’s foolish and stupid. At worst, it’s utterly reckless and wrong.”

Mr Woodward originally entered Parliament as a Conservative but crossed the floor to become a Labour MP. He served as St Helens South’s MP between 2001 and 2015.