What next for Northern Ireland?

Arlene Foster © Getty images
Arlene Foster: deal is good news for Northern Ireland

“A Tory-DUP deal will be both painful for May and painful for political stability and peace in the North,” according to former Labour MP and Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain in The Guardian. Managing Northern Ireland’s peace process “is like carrying a tray of champagne glasses over a high wire”.

The DUP’s talks with the Tories have overshadowed discussions aimed at restoring the Northern Irish executive, which collapsed in February and still looks a very long way from restoration, says Patrick Maguire in The New Statesman. DUP leader Arlene Foster insists the partnership with the Tories is good news for Northern Ireland, but critics think the deal undermines the government’s neutrality in the fragile peace process, an obligation under the Good Friday Agreement.

In the present environment, “it is difficult to see a new Assembly being formed any time soon”, says Ciaran McGonagle on Politics.co.uk. The DUP has little motivation to compromise with rivals Sinn Fein. With Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire running out of options, voters may face their fifth national election in just over 12 months.

The five parties – Sinn Fein, Ulster Unionists, SDLP, Alliance and DUP – have until 29 June to re-establish Northern Ireland’s government, a deadline that is “final and immovable”, Brokenshire has said. If there is no deal, says Vincent Boland in the FT, Northern Ireland’s “uneasy experiment with devolution” will be over for now and the province will return to direct rule from Westminster.